The Music of Our Lives

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It started as a simple question. Were there songs with an age other than "16" in the title celebrating ages other than those of the sweet teen years? I suppose it was natural for me to wonder about this -- my being a multiple of 16 several times over -- and reminded of the aging process every time NPR wishes someone at 6:00am a "happy birthday."

Most of my students offered Taylor Swift's "Fifteen" and "feeling like there's nothing to figure out." Although I still have more questions than answers, back then I'd had the world organized.

I remembered the Sound of Music's Rolf and Liesl's repartees about being "16 going on 17," "timid and scared and shy" about the world.  There I was, heading off to college, feeling overwhelmed, my bravery shaky.

When Neil Sedaka crooned happy birthday to the tomboy who'd blossomed into "the prettiest girl he's ever seen," I saw my braces disappearing and pretty seemed a bit closer.

The Beatles had made me feel I could have been the one who'd made Paul's heart go "boom." How often have I felt a part of my own "circle game...captive on the carousel of time"? Feeling lonely as well as desired, I often wanted the lyrics to my life's songs to be as hopeful as those I'd listened to in my teens.


Very good years like 17 have led to my current ones. I think of years as "vintage wine" that has been "poured sweet and clear." That simile is as smooth as a sommelier's choice of a buttery Chardonnay.

March has arrived, as has my birthday. McCartney and Lennon's song helps me ask my husband "when I get older...many years from now...will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?"  My 16 is multiplied by four. And if I should survive to 105, I'll know that being young at heart is the best number in any song.

With a Perspective, I'm Barbara Simmons.

Barbara Simmons is Director of College Counseling at Notre Dame High School in San Jose.