A story of me and my sister
What follows is the story of me and my sister. Of all the songs I perform live in concert, these two "Sister Songs"--a matched set--are the most frequently requested. When I play the first song, half the room tears up. When I play the second song, the other half of the room gets all watery-eyed. (The non-teary people know better than to come to my concerts, I guess). Each of us, it seems, can relate in some way to one side or the other of this equation: siblings who grow apart--and one who maybe struggles with it more than the other.
When we were young, Amy and I shared a room, a bunk bed, and many late night conversations, giggling and doing imitations of the voices (and imagined gastrointestinal releases) of all of our neighbors. We had secret glances and little pieces of shorthand. Everything she did, I wanted to do. But when we grew up, Amy and I grew into different lives. And we grew apart. She seemed okay with it. I spent a lot of years, when I stopped to think about it, feeling somewhat tortured by our apartness. I came up with no end of stories, explanations, reasons, justifications, and excuses for what it all meant. On the surface, I am not sure what it looked like, but inside of me, down below the surface where no one could see, there were a lot of approaches, and a lot of retreats. I was hurting, and I didn't know where to go with that hurt, or how to give it a voice.
SISTER SONG 2: AMY'S RESPONSE
Ten years ago, before I ever wrote a commissioned song, I wrote a song that I thought I might someday give to Amy called, "The Distance." I took this song to my friend Ksenia and she created a far more amazing guitar arrangement for it that pulled all of my hurt right up to the surface. We recorded it. Eventually, I summoned up my courage and I mailed it to Amy. The song voiced my hurt, and a sort of confusion that I felt. And in the song I found myself taking ownership for the fact that the distance between us seemed to be both something I hated AND something I put energy into creating. It was a baffling song to me, but it was how I felt. I mailed it to Amy and then held my breath:
Was it a war zone? Was it a floor show?
Do you know something I don't?
Were we a hard tribe, did we use sharp knives
When we helped each other grow?
Did I hurt you, did I desert you
Did I see the world too hard?
Is there a window I can climb in now
To our old bedroom in the dark?
It was a long, scary-hard bunch of days before I heard anything, but what Amy wrote to me after listening to "The Distance" touched me in some deep, strange way I could not fully understand. I was not sure what to think about her words. So I took her letter, and I simply let its message become...a song. I moved and pushed a few things around, but I tried as hard as I could to really let the essence of her words stay as they were. I tried to hold it like glass--like the delicate, precious thing that it was: Amy's words to me, across a divide. I want to share her letter with you here. And when you listen to the lyrics of "Sister Song 2: Amy's Response," maybe you will hear her letter coming to life, as I did--and as Amy did, when I eventually shared it with her. Here is her letter, shared with her permission:
Listening to your song about me made me think about how I view our relationship. I think I see the same things you do, but to me it's not a negative. It's just us. I think one main difference between us is I look at something and say, "There it is" and you look and say, "Think what it could be." I do think there is a distance between us, but mostly because we live different lives in different states, not because we have nothing to say. I think we are becoming closer mostly because you initiated it. I don't really analyze (or is it Anna-lyze) life that much. For better or for worse, I just move on through--if I bump into something I love, I move on toward it. If I don't like it, I move away. (Very deep, I know.) Since I hadn't bumped into you much, we weren't part of each others' lives. So no, you didn't hurt me or desert me - now that we're moving more in the same direction, our relationship can't help but get stronger. I envy your many creative talents and your ability to be so "out there." It's hard for me to get past that sometimes, but at the same time I'm proud of your accomplishments--your songwriting, your starting your own business, moving to a new city and making it your own. Okay, alright, now that I think about it there was some animosity there, especially when you were in your "I have the best life around" stage. I decided to take myself out of the contest by not dealing with you too much. Now I guess it's just residual jealousy. Just a pang now and then for the things you do so easily that I could never do. Now look what you've done. You've gone and made me think about things. Siblings--weird stuff!
I love you,
P.S. Your songs are beautiful, damn it!
And here is her letter translated into song: "Sister Song 2: Amy's Response."
TEN YEARS LATER
So here is what I know about miracles. Sometimes miracles are huge, crashing things that run into a room and announce that the universe is splendid and made-to-order. And then again sometimes miracles are the smallest little thing, that happens a little bit, again and again, over years and years (say, ten), so that one day, you can look across the room at someone you love and no longer feel that painful catch in your throat. You haven't "reinvented the wheel" or "had it out" or "talked and talked till you got to the bottom of it." But rather, you just remember, like a little girl lying in the bottom bunk bed at night, that here in this very same bed, one level up, is someone who loves you--who always has and always will. One day it just isn't hard any more. And the distance is no longer something you fight against or struggle to simultaneously create and take down in spite of yourself. It's just space. It's just room to breathe, and become who you are, and who you always were, anyway. And so you step into the space between, with your heart open, and you say, "Hey, Aim, remember this? This is what old Mr. Truex sounded like when he had the runs!" and then you blow ferosciously into your hands and make this awful, horrible gastrointestinal sound. And you make your sister smile.
Anna Huckabee Tull is an award-winning Singer-Songwriter with five national CDs, including the recently-released "Every Day," a collection of songs exploring the relationships between parents and children, young and old. Anna is also a Psychologist and Life Coach, with a Master's Degree in Spiritual Psychology and Applied Psychology. [More about Anna]. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband and their two boys. Ksenia Mack did all the guitar arranging and performing on both songs (breathtaking stuff) and shares the copyright with Anna on Sister Song 2, as does Anna's sister Amy Koren. Meryl Press arranged and performed the harmonies on Sister Song 1 and did the lead vocals on Sister Song 2, for which Anna sang harmonies. This song appears on Anna's autobiographical first CD, "Open Now" - click here to preview or purchase.