Beginning’s End – Good Morning Sun

Like many of my Ramah friends, I elected to spend my summer preceding college as a junior counselor. The administrative powers-that-be assigned me to Ilanot, the youngest true age group (8/9/10 yr) for the camp. Although I had initially wanted a slightly older group, I could not have been happier with my experience, and elected to return to that edah for the following summer.

It’s about to be four years since that amazing summer, as I prepare go through yet another graduation. In many ways, my first summer on staff at Ramah began the college journey that I am about to finish, and I certainly mentally consider it more a part of this stage of my life than the prior one. Because it has been so long, I have now lost most of the day to day memories. That in its own right is sad; I can remember that it was a truly amazing and transformative summer, but not much more than that. I constantly worry that my more recent memories will one day go the same route.

Ironically, I will never be able to forget one tiny and arguably inconsequential detail from that summer. It was during staff week, the seven-ish day period preceding camp that we spend preparing as best we can for the rest of the summer. In between all of the official activity planning, my co-counselor and I took a few minutes one day to make a very important decision: what song would we be using to wake up our bunk every morning? After some discussion, we settled on Still Fighting It, by Ben Folds. (For the first few weeks I was absolutely convinced the song was called Good Morning Sun, as was everyone aside from my Co. Our bunk plaque depicted a sun with a bird above it. I’m only now realizing that it’s “Son” and not “Sun”. Whoops.)

Here are the full lyrics, for those who don’t know it. I highly recommend listening to the song as you read the lyrics, especially if you haven’t heard it before.

Good morning, son.
I am a bird
Wearing a brown polyester shirt
You want a coke?
Maybe some fries?
The roast beef combo’s only $9.95
It’s okay, you don’t have to pay
I’ve got all the change

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry

Good morning, son
In twenty years from now
Maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers
And I can tell you ’bout today
And how I picked you up and everything changed
It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you’d feel the same things

Everybody knows
It sucks to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here.
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
You’ll try and try and one day you’ll fly
Away from me

Good morning, son
I am a bird

It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you’d feel the same things

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here.
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
Oh, we’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it

And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry

It’s a very unorthodox pick, to be sure. We could only get away with it because our kids were young and thus didn’t think about the words very hard as they went about brushing their teeth and putting on clothes. My co and I thought about it every morning, though. We watched with sad smiles as our campers rushed around the room, trying to remember what it was like when we were in their shoes. Our hope, I believe, was that they would remember a line or two of the song, someday far in the future. In order to sate their curiosity, they would have to find it on the internet, causing them to indulge in a brief recollection of the carefree summer days that dominated their younger years. I can see their faces now, bearing small smiles.

To me, the song embodies the struggle of getting older. It taps into the sadness that can only come from the end of something so filled with happiness. The experiences were finite, but they left happy memories that will be with me as long as I am able to recall them. Even though we know that the unstoppable advance of time is natural and unavoidable, we nevertheless fight against it with everything we have.

I’ve been humming through the lyrics a lot over the past few days, now that I find myself in essentially the same position as my campers on the last day of summer. Packing up my room has been especially hard (which is why I’m currently not doing it), as I have to go through each ticket stub and empty bottle of wine and decide if it is meaningful enough to hold on to. I know that I am heading towards a new and exciting phase of my life, but that doesn’t mean I will simply flush the past four years away.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, I think it is one that comes directly from the lyrics of Still Fighting It. It hurts to grow up. Almost every happy thing that happens to you will eventually end. That’s simply an occupational hazard of living, and one you can do very little about. Because of that, however, there’s nothing wrong with sadly reminiscing on those good times. Keep on living, doing new things and meeting new people, but don’t beat yourself up for taking a moment every so often to remember what used to be. It would be a shame if I locked away my happy memories simply because they are now in the past.

I really should get back to packing, but instead I’m going to go plan my trip for the summer to Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand! I’ll continue sadly reminiscing later, for the moment it’s time to plan ahead for new happy memories.

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