Journey’s “Open Arms” played on the radio as I ran errands today. I laughed as I recalled becoming aware of the song.
You’re thinking, “Wow, you remember the first time you heard a song?”
No, I don’t remember the first time I heard any song. This is especially true of songs that debuted before 1983, the year my mom relinquished control of the radio and I learned there was more to music than rancheras.
What I do remember is the only song whose lyrics were handwritten into the Webster’s Dictionary I was handed one day during the sixth grade. That’s right, Journey’s “Open Arms.”
The assigned task was to copy the week’s list of spelling words and then look up their definitions. I must have been half way through the assignment when I happened to glance at the dictionary’s inside cover. And there it was, in black ink,
Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your heart beat with mine
I couldn’t tell if the handwriting was a boy’s or a girl’s.
My sheltered sixth grade self didn’t know these were lyrics. I didn’t know Journey. What I did “know” was that someone was very in love and leaving messages in the dictionary.
I daydreamed about the story behind these lyrics. I pondered questions like, “I wonder if this was written by an eighth grader who’s in this classroom earlier in the day.” and “Is someone in this classroom lying beside someone?”
I looked around the classroom suspiciously for weeks, losing interest in my words and trying to solve the mystery of the lover and poet who left messages in the dictionary.
Who wrote the message remains an unsolved mystery. As does the first time I actually heard the song. I don’t remember that.
What I do remember is I never saw that dictionary again.
And still, there is an distinct image of handwritten lyrics that flashes across my mind every time Steve Perry’s voice begins.