Musical Wisdom: “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”

Brilliance (musical and lyrical brilliance, at least)

It’s a dangerous game, searching for profundity in musical lyrics. Case in point: the sage who wrote this awesome tune once got loaded and decided to play chicken with an oak tree.

But hey, he also married Christie Brinkley, right?

"This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy..."

Billy Joel’s lows and highs (and very highs) aside, let’s talk about the title of this song and why it’s so brilliant. Here’s my  favorite part:

“But if that’s how I feel

Then it’s the best feeling I’ve ever known

It’s undeniably real

Leave a tender moment alone”

I don’t know about you, but I’m terminally prone to hurrying. I’ve got to do this fast so I can go do that by this time. And dang it, if something isn’t on my itinerary, that thing must be expunged or bulldozed through!

The problem with this attitude is that I’m failing to be in the moment. In fact, by trying to be in the next moment, I end up not being in any moment.

Having children has taught me this. But because I’m a human being—and often a very stupid human being—I forget and have to remind myself.

Take this morning. My baby girl was napping, and I had to get the four of us (myself and my three kids) to a place where my wife was volunteering for an event. Why was I in a hurry? Well…because I’d planned on having everyone there by 11:30, and it was already 11:15, and the baby wasn’t even up yet, and, and, well, I’d gotten the older two ready (my four-year-old and six-year-old staring at me as though I were some crazed sartorial robot while I stuffed them in hats and coats and shoes and did you forget to wear socks? Why did you forget to wear socks? It’s November! I mean, I know you’re only four and you still believe I can create thunder by squeezing my eyes shut and nodding right when the thunder rumbles, but surely you must know that socks are required equipment on a cold November morning, don’t you? GET WITH IT, SOLDIER!).

At 11: 23 I finally hear and see my daughter crying on the spooky Paranormal Activity baby monitor my wife bought. I race upstairs to get her out of her pajama, into a dry diaper, and wearing something that won’t make my wife look at me like an idiot. I fling open the nursery door, thinking about nothing except my self-imposed deadline, and stride toward the crib.

Then I feel it. My baby daughter’s stare. I realize she’s no longer crying, though the tears are rimming her huge blue eyes. She’s reaching for me. Automatically, I lean down to put my arms around her. As I do I see her face melt into something approaching ecstasy. My hands cup her back and her perfectly round rear end. I hoist her into my arms. She’s a little stiff, and I think she’s going to start crying because I’m not Mom. I pull back and realize she’s staring at me.

And smiling.

She wants me to fake-eat her neck. I move in to do that and her eyes dance with delight (I read on a writers’ website a year or so ago that, technically, eyes can’t dance. My response? Lighten up. If you wrote that you’ve obviously never been around a baby, and if you have, you’ve probably been so hung up on don’ts that you’ve failed to notice how beautifully a baby’s eyes can dance.). The closer I get, the more she bounces in my arms. She begins to squeal. Then I make Cookie Monster sounds and nuzzle her neck and we both laugh like crazy.

I pull back, realizing we’re going to be late. Get moving, that cold, robotic voice in my head orders. I start to take her out of the nursery.

Then I remember the Billy Joel song. I stop and gaze into her gorgeous eyes, which are watching me hopefully. I decide to spend the next several minutes playing with my baby and laughing as uproariously as she is.

I make bad decisions all the time, but today’s wasn’t one of them.

Leave a tender moment alone.

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