When I got married this past October, there weren't a lot of decisions put squarely on my shoulders. Which isn't to say I wasn't involved (I was). Or that I wasn't opinionated (I am). But for the most part Kate and I saw the wedding the same way, and the decisions in regards to food, themes, and overall ambiance reflected who we are as people. And since we've been damn near attached at the hip since we were 19, the fact that most of these big, sweeping decisions could be made with a few glances and a facial gesture or two didn't come as any great surprise.
But the music? That was all my kingdom. The playlist was masterfully crafted in a way that I could only trust myself with. I wouldn't dare entrust the music, the soul of the evening both literally and figuratively, to some total stranger. I was not about the spend my wedding night watching distant relatives gyrate to the Electric Slide or hear the latest Beyonce tune. The playlist was as eclectic and expansive as my taste - some early punk smoothly transitioned into some smooth Memphis soul. The night told the story of my growth as a person and as a music fan, and much like the grandiose combining of the record and dvd collections years earlier, Kate and I moving from two very separate people to one incongruous entity.
But while my initial playlist was pared from 8 hours down to a more reasonable three, one spot was completely blank. The mother-daughter dance. I just couldn't find a song that fit what I wanted to express. And just as important - couldn't find a song that was short enough to get my uncoordinated ass off the dance floor at the most mercifully short length possible.
But as I made list after list of options, I couldn't get away from Bob Dylan's Forever Young. All 5:01 of it. Dylan changed the way I listen to music. Driving on vacation to the beach in the summer of 1999 or 2000 I heard Like a Rolling Stone on the local oldies station. They didn't play Dylan on any of the Pittsburgh stations we listened to. And suddenly this music was unlike anything my teenage self had ever heard. A few years later my mom bought me Dylan's Greatest Hits, which stayed in constant rotation throughout high school. A Dylan poster hung over my bed. And as I worked backwards, moving from loving more "classic" rock to being immersed in folk. It may not have as monumental as Dylan going electric to the rest of the world, but for me it changed the way I looked at the world.
Which is the long way of saying that as I stood there for four and a half minutes (I found a slightly shorter live version in my massive Dylan library) waddling side to side with my mother in a pseudo slow dance, I spent what felt like a great deal of time thinking about...well, time.
For many of us cards are, in one way or another, a way of staying timeless. Our critics call it a childhood hobby. And at best our collections are attempts to cling onto passing memories and seasons. When people find out that I'm married, it leads to natural assumptions. That I'm older. Or deeply religious. Or desperately want a family. Cause really, I'm well aware that I don't really fit the mold for the "married at 25" category. And while it all fits together just fine and dandy in my little intellectual and ideological bubble, the "well we've been together nonstop since we were teenagers anyway" argument just doesn't seem quite gratifying enough for most folks.
But isn't that life? Whether it's baseball cards, or music, or people, we mark out lives with these mileposts. Ways of breaking down and understanding the passing of time. And perhaps I'm not too good at playing by the conventions in that regard. I'm 26, look like I'm 36, behave like I'm 86, and collect cards like I'm just plain old 6.
Flipping through my 1991 binder instantly transports me to my dad buying me a pack or two and a slurpee every time he took me to the gas station with him. Or 2000, and my dad buying me 20 packs of Topps before dropping me off at grandma and grandpa's for the night before they went for a rare evening out. Or registering for a Beckett account, feeling like a rebel because I clicked the terms of service saying I was 13 almost a whole half year before my actual 13th birthday. Or hearing "Like a Rolling Stone" and being taken back to the backseat of our minivan, salty shore air cutting through the windows and the tightly woven lyrics ripping through me and pulling out a kid wanting more than what his boring suburban life could offer.
Our collections, if you'll forgive the drawn out analogy, are our playlists. These pieces of ourselves placed in time and space. Memories being made and remade constantly. At times impossible to explain away to friends, or family, or coworkers. But the very things that make us who we are, and how we see ourselves. Whether you're 16 or 66 reading or writing about cards, those memories and connections are at their most basic quite the same. And either way, may you stay forever young.