Tubular Bells and Becoming My Mother

Image courtesy of Spotify

At first, I thought it strange. 

Last spring I stumbled through the Denver Botanical Gardens alone during block break. I tuned out the hoards of families with the hum Cat Stevens. 

“God,” I thought, “I am becoming my mother.”

A typical Saturday for her, one I was often unwillingly dragged through in my youth.

Once attached by cord, then by hip, and now by word, her and I have never been further apart. Physically I mean. 

She gave me an album recommendation over the phone a few months ago: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. An old favorite.

When my mom was my age, she liked most of the music she does now. What I heard in the backseat of the car: the Who, Queen, and the like.

But Tubular Bells is quite detached from that familiar sound. It got me thinking.

I would sell my soul to meet my mom when she was my age. We might absolutely despise each other. But Tubular Bells gives me a taste of her younger mind, and maybe, we would get along just fine. 

It is an amorphous album composed of two songs long enough to fill an entire side of a record. 

Of course, there are bells. But with so many random instruments, moving parts, and repetition, I couldn’t try to explain its intricacies. Skip through either song and you’ll understand. 

Its mystery is what compels me about the junction of my identity and my mother’s. 

If my mom found something tangible, something human in Tubular Bells, we are a whole lot alike. 

I grapple with fulfilling a familial prophecy. 

But I am evidently a product of my parents. 

A big fan of Low by David Bowie, the album that rests on my Dad’s 1985 yearbook page. 

A lover of Ram, arguably the birth of Paul McCartney’s “indie” sound, my mother’s favorite artist. 

Am I genetically predisposed to have these preferences? Probably not. 

But sometimes, I find it troubling. 

I would like to think if I had different parents, a different childhood, a different life, I would be the same. 

But that’s just wishful thinking.

God knows, maybe I would be a better person. Maybe I would give my life to Jesus Christ. But instead, I can’t help to think of how evil I could be. 

Maybe a conspiracy theorist. Maybe a big old bully.

Then I think of her, my mom, the good, and that maybe I shouldn’t avoid the shifting sands that morph our identities together.

Bells don’t remind me of my mom. Quite the opposite. They remind me of my favorite spot on campus: the chapel. A place distant from my religion-loathing mother. 

The chaplain once told me that if the building flipped upside down, its ribbed roofing would help it float. 

I like to think this would happen on Judgment Day. If you aren’t at mass, tough luck.

I certainly wouldn’t be included. I don’t go to mass. I just like the building.

But at moments of reckoning, I think again of my mother.

For now, when I am no longer a child and not yet an adult, I will listen to Tubular Bells and think of my mother at age 20. 

She didn’t even plan to have kids then. 

And here I am. 

So I’ll embrace the unknown. 

But the bells are something I can hold onto, whether they’re sourced every 15 minutes from the bell tower or the sounds of Oldfield through my headphones.

Even if everything takes a turn and flips upside down, the bells will resonate. 

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