In ‘My Heroes’, Kimya Dawson sings, “Never forget how you felt as a kid/ look little you in the eye/ each time you encounter a child”. That line struck me as one so important, so simple and so rare. Something tugged at me from deep inside and told me to put it into action. I must have been afraid that I would forget it because I found myself singing that one line in my head more often than any other. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), as soon as that lyric hit and hit hard, I seemed never to spend any real time with anyone under 25. I put it in my pocket for later. Later turned out to be about the time it takes for your average kid to go from peanut to three feet tall and entirely by accident.
My grandma died recently. It wasn’t shocking and I have been so blessed to have had 32 years with the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. Before the visitation, some family congregated at my grandparents’ house, planning to ride over to the funeral home together and support my grandfather and each other. One family member was my cousin. We’ll call her “M”.
M is the youngest of the first cousins by nearly a decade. It had been five years since I’d seen her. I’m not sure how old she was last time I saw her but I know there were pigtails and toddling involved. Now, at eleven, she is quiet, strong and brave, I could see that much as she stood tall next to her father walking into the visitation room. (I wasn’t so brave. I never got closer than 8 feet to the casket.) As it happens at something like this, folks began arriving to pay their respects. Mostly it was folks who hadn’t seen each other in years, so they were obliged to play catch up and share photos of their kids and such. I know M didn’t know most of them, but she held her own.
A couple of hours into the evening, those lyrics played through my mind. Maybe it was thinking about my grandma and how she had such a special place for children in her heart. Maybe it was needing something else to focus on so as not to have a meltdown. But as they played, I recognized the chance I’d been waiting for.
Keep in mind, “little me” was the only child of divorced parents who spent the majority of her time with adults. More than anything, I wanted to matter. I wanted to be included and feel as though what I had to say was just as important as anyone else. Maybe I recognized how isolating it can be to be the only one waist high at a party. So, I asked questions and I listened. I paid attention. We chatted and you know what? She’s amazing.
The next day was the funeral. The male cousins were pallbearers and we ladies carried flowers for cousins who couldn’t be there. As is tradition (from now on), we and our flowers followed the hearse and the pallbearers to the grave site. M and I walked together, followed by my sisters. We talked all the way there and continued to hang together and sit together and just generally get along together for the remainder of my trip. Before she left for the last time, the day before I was to fly home, she thanked me for “looking out for her”, as her mother had done at the funeral. I hugged her and I thanked her for looking out for me. Because she had. She’d been as interested and entertained by me as I had been by her.
I truly think that, because of Kimya Dawson, I was able to see my cousin as an equal, a peer instead of just a child. Maybe it would have happened anyway. Maybe M and I are just lucky and happened to have a lot in common. More likely though, had that lyric not been sung in my head, I’d have stayed locked inside my thoughts and my grief and missed the opportunity to get to know this super awesome, brilliant, smart, funny, goofy, talented person I happen to be related to.
There’s more to Kimya Dawson than just that one lyric. There are hundreds of lyrics in countless songs that make me stop and reconsider my life and how I live it. Her work inspires me to be a better person. She inspires me to be a nicer person. Her music is simple and honest and straightforward. Songs like ‘Loose Lips’, ‘Eleventeen’ and ‘I Like Giants’ are reminders that we are all special and beautiful. Her songs deal with death and sadness and butts and love and feeling bad and feeling good. Her overarching message though, the message that will change the world, is that she loves you and so should you. Yes you because, bottom line, whoever you are, You. Are. Awesome.
image via kimyadawson.net