So I’m brushing my teeth this morning, and what do I hear coming from the TV in the bedroom but that long-ago song by Tom Petty, Learning to Fly. I begin to nod my head to the familiar refrain, catch my reflection in the mirror, and am startled to realize the face staring back at me was no longer my own.
At least not the face that was there when I first heard the song some twenty-odd years earlier. I played Petty regularly when my kids were young, gently rocking them back to sleep. (Bob Dylan was often a guest during those moments as well.)
Learning to Fly was in regular rotation when my son and daughter were small enough to rest in the crook of my right arm. Now my son is attending university, and my daughter will soon be doing the same – just as the face of a then young man, has turned into the face of an older one.
It is a song that for me, marked a moment of awareness that the simpler days of more selfish, sometimes reckless youth, had given way to the ever-increasing responsibilities of parenthood that required foolish things, and actions, be put away for good.
Ah, but for a brief moment this morning, the accumulated years were lessened within the image looking back at me. The old smile, the devilish gleam, were still there, not entirely lost just yet…
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out, for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there…
D.W. Ulsterman is a bestselling author and socio-political commentator.
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