Some people hear the message in the lyrics the first time they hear a song. I usually hear the instrumentation and structure and how the parts fit together first. The words finally sink in around the fifth or sixth time I hear a song.
A few weeks ago I finally “heard” Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me,” a song that’s on the radio constantly, and realize that parts of the song are taken right out of my life. How do songwriters do that? Even if you’re not a country music fan, I think you’ll recognize the power of this song (check out the video below).
The main character in the song is trying to ‘find herself’ and although she realizes the truth of the old adage “they say you can’t go home again” she still thinks maybe she can gain some insight by visiting her childhood home. She spends a few minutes there and sees how this house connects parts of her life. The house belongs to another family now, but some pieces of her life remain there, in reality and in spirit.
Fortunately for me, my childhood home is still in my family (my sister owns it and lives there) and each time I visit it, I gain new insight into my own life. My Dad built the house himself from plans he and Mom saw in a magazine, sort of like in the song. Lambert sings about her handprints in the front steps; my name and my sister’s name are carved into are cement swing set anchors in the backyard. In the song, the singer’s bedroom is where she did her homework and learned how to play guitar, leading to her eventual career; my childhood bedroom is now the guest room and when I stay there I recall doing my homework and listening to the radio, my eventual career. My Dad built his own life in a rock solid manner and built the house the same way; the house was remodeled after Hurricane Katrina but it remains rock solid and I can sometimes feel my Dad’s spirit there.
Corny? Sentimental? Slightly overdramatic? Rock solid? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Tough shit; that’s who I am. Like in the song, that little cottage is the house that built me. I think about it fondly every time I hear the song.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me