Tag Archive | Avett Brothers


Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 month in my mind.

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 months in my mind.

On Nov. 10, 1978, I understood my purpose in life. It feels wrong to say I gave birth to my son, since he was taken by scheduled C-section, but I gave life to him – and he gave it to me.

Until I held my large, sturdy first-born, life had been a drifty, “whatever” proposition. But once we met, everything became clear. My purpose was in my arms. Motherhood suited me – it doesn’t define me, but it has made me who I am while fulfilling what I was meant to be.

Ben was the golden child – first Cartwright grandson, the boy my father (whom Ben dubbed “Grandbob”) never had, a smart and gorgeous infant. His time in the solo spotlight was short, though; by his first birthday I was heavily pregnant with his baby, as he called his sister.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

By his second birthday, Grandbob was newly diagnosed with terminal cancer, which rocked our world. At Ben’s birthday party, Liz decided to steal the spotlight by standing for the first time – cameras quickly moved from the birthday boy and his cake to the teetery little girl in the petticoat-splayed dress and black-patent shoes.

Ben didn’t mind – he was a lesson in love and he adored his sister.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first "official" portrait together.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first “official” portrait together.

By his third birthday, Grandbob was dying and Mama was distracted and often at the hospital. After the party, Ben loaded his backpack with presents and took them to the cancer ward at Baptist Hospital, where he proudly spread them all over Daddy’s bed, and they discussed and played with each one.

Seems like yesterday in many ways.

Now my baby is a 35-year-old father of two, and his baby, precious Luke, will be 1 on Tuesday.

My purpose has expanded from two gorgeous children to five gorgeous grandkids. Lucky, lucky me.


I chose an Avett Brothers’ song to title this piece for two reasons: They sing about life, love, death and family and are one of my favorite bands. That’s reason 1. Reason 2 is that my kids, my friend Julia and I saw them at Verizon Friday night.

These boys have and are something special. If you don’t know them, look them up. I dare you not to be touched by them.

Once upon a time I had a drawerful of ticket stubs from concerts. I ditched or lost them all at some point, which I often regret. This is one I’m keeping.



Mercy. So this is 57. Or in my method of measuring, this is nine years older than Daddy ever got to be.

So I’m happy to be 57. Doesn’t feel that different from 17 or 47 in my mind. My body might beg to differ on certain days, but I’ll take it.

Friday was the big day, but my birthday has been of the extended variety this year. John had to leave Tuesday to help with his mom, so he started giving me gifts a week early. His absence was definitely noted, but family and friends took up the celebratory slack.

Thursday Liz, Jude and Sylvie brought me cupcakes, cards and the new Avett Brothers CD. I may be an oldie, but my musical tastes run wide, and those darling boys put out a  The Carpenter just in time for my birthday. 

(Dave Matthews Band obliged my 57th with Away From the World, and Ben picked it up, along with a bonus copy of the Avett Brothers.

On Friday, the real day, Mother, Julia, Anita, Rhonda and I went to the Clinton School (the gift that keeps on giving, lecturewise) to see Fran Drescher, who was engaging, informative and entertaining as she talked about her fight with uterine cancer – as well as with the medical community that kept misdiagnosing her – and her organization, Cancer Schmancer (cancerschmancer.org – you owe it to yourself to check it out). 

Then we all went to a lovely late lunch. That evening, baby sister (Cathy, who will always be 3 years and 4 months younger than me, no matter how old we get), Julia and I went to Market Street to see Robot & Frank, which is interesting, quirky, slightly funny and slightly sad.

For the record, I almost titled this post “Ants Marching,” which is still one of my favorite DMB songs, because time marches on for all us ants and I love the lyrics. (This acoustic version should let you understand them, plus it’s pretty cool.)

But “Mercy” seems to address it all – the surprise at being this old, the happiness that is my life most days, and the feeling of luck at getting here at all.

So, this is what 57 looks like, only backward, of course, courtesy of my trusty MacBook. I normally dodge photos, but what the heck. I’m a golden oldie.

Bittersweet me(mories)

It’s taken me a few days to work up to writing about the breakup of REM. Wednesday morning, as I was doing an early morning weights workout, the scroll across the bottom of the screen silently announced the news.

“Oh, NO!”

I startled John, who was engrossed in the news on his computer in the dining room. REM was one of my bucket-list bands. I don’t mean to see before I die – I have a few bands left that, after seeing them, I could conceivably never go to another concert.  (Conceivable? Probably not. But maybe.) Concerts bucket list.

Now I can never see them live. But I’m actually OK with it. It’s not that I’m losing my REM religion – but sometime’s it’s wiser to heed Buddy Holly’s advice than to turn into still-touring relics. Rolling Stones, I love you, but a 50-year tour? That’s getting kind of creepy.

I’ll always have the finest worksong to play for the finest of hours. And REM kept me from chewing my leg off when I needed out of a miserable marriage. And helped me have the courage to go for it.

So I’ll settle for my REM collection and knowing that “Automatic for the People” will always be on my 10-desert-island-albums list. 

I’ll always miss you and be grateful for your assistance through some rough spots in life.   RIP, REM.




Speaking of Top 10s (the desert-island list), how do you choose from a lifetime (a looonnnggg lifetime) of music?

“The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East” is a no-brainer. Has been since I was 16. 

So is Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” Goes without saying. 

Automatic for the People.” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” “Z.Z. Top’s First Album” (they used to kick ass, trust me).

Crap, halfway there with old stuff. And haven’t even addressed Led Zeppelin. OK, “Houses of the Holy.” What the hell. They’re all good. And there’s that confounded bridge that always makes Liz and me smile.

But any Top 10 list of mine would be heavy on Tom Petty – he is my husband in a parallel universe. (It’s OK, it’s OK. John digs him too.) And my baby boy, Ben, used to beg me to play TP. So he’s got to be there. He could be all 10, actually.

But I guess I could settle for “The Waiting,” if I had to, and “The Traveling Wilburys, Vol.1,” but it would almost kill me to choose. 

Please notice I’m being authentic and true and not copping out with greatest hits or boxed sets. You try it – waaayyyy harder.

Then I’d have to add Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More and The Avett Brothers, probably “Live, Vol. 3.

Shit, that’s it! Can I live with it forever? Maybe. Ask me tomorrow. But probably not – there’s no DMB, and when you’ve gotta hear Dave, you’ve gotta hear Dave. Or Willie. Or Leon Russell. Oh, my.

This won’t do! Ten is not enough. No desert islands for me unless I can bring my iPod Touch with unlimited battery power.

Maybe next time I’ll do an all-girls version. Or an all-Beatles. Or an all-post ’90s. Or an all-boxed-sets. You try it. It’s hard.

What IS your Top 10? I dare you.

The beat goes on …

Parade magazine, not normally my source of rock ’n’ roll news, says that 46 years ago today Sonny and Cher hit No.1 on the charts with “I Got You, Babe.” They certainly rocked my 9-year-old life – I read every word I could about Cherilyn Sarkisian Bono in my Sixteen magazines that I bought and studied religiously. (Never Tiger Beat – that was for boppers. It was Sixteen all the way for me. My walls were covered with their mini posters for years.)

If memory serves, Cher was billed as half-Cherokee/half-Armenian (maybe there was some French in there too – this is from memory). She dropped out of school for her music career. How romantic to a 9 year old. For a time, she drew my attention away from Pattie Boyd (soon-to-be Pattie Boyd Harrison, when she married – gasp – a BEATLE!), whom I considered the ultimate source for all things fashion and beauty.

She had a regular column in 16 and was a famous model in her own right before George married her then supposedly wrote “Something” about her. But that wasn’t enough – Eric Clapton wrote “Layla” about her when his love was unrequited, then “Wonderful Tonight” when they were married. She even claims “Bell-Bottom Blues” was written for her. Regardless, she was a highly influential person in my life.

I must admit to being disappointed to learn what a ditz her autobiography made her seem. Some people are better adored from afar – and when you’re in elementary school.

(Even her sister Jenny got in on the muse act; Donovan wrote “Jennifer Juniper” for her, then she was later married to Mick Fleetwood for a while.)

Getting sidetracked, as I was briefly by Cher. But mostly I dug the boy bands, the Beatles, of course, but so, so many others.

But here’s where I get to the point (about damn time, you may be thinking): Good music, contrary to what many of my baby-boomer cohorts say, did NOT end with the early ’70s. Au contraire; good music abounds.

Granted, there have been some musical-desert years. I would not have survived the late ’70s and early ’80s without my main man Tom Petty (he can do me like that, musically, anytime). That’s probably why son Ben used to beg, at about 15 months, for me to play “TP, Mama, TP” – he was my housework soundtrack in the stay-at-home mom days. Bruce Springsteen, whom Liz was determined to marry when she was a toddler, Dire Straits, Bob Seeger, then later, yes, John (briefly Cougar) Mellencamp all brought me comfort and joy.

When Tom Petty and I divorced our long-term spouses at about the same time in the mid-’90s, my kids teased me with “Now’s your chance, Mom. Your man’s free.”  Everything he does is gold. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better sound than the Travelin’ Wilburys came up with. (Hmmm, Pattie Boyd’s ex was a TW. There she is again.)

Dave Matthews has been around way too long to be considered new, but some of my boomer friends still don’t listen to DMB; some don’t even know who he is. If you’re in that category, you must learn now. Can’t let too many days go by without a fix. Maybe two. After that, the jonesing sets in (which reminds me of Counting Crows, another oldish “new” band. If you’re not in the know, check them out too.)

My kids introduced me to Jack Johnson when they were stationed in Hawaii, just before he hit it so big he became an Andy Samberg character on SNL. Even if you could possibly not love his music, you’ve got to love his big heart and green-living lifestyle. And he’s a surfer, dude.

My latest additions/addictions are The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. The Avett Bros. are southern, young and precious; Mumford & Sons are British, young and precious.

Hate to end on a downer note, but I’ve got to give the late Amy Winehouse her props. If she could’ve held out to our birthday (we were born on the same day), at least she could’ve beaten the cliche of the 27 club. Sigh. She should’ve lived long enough to catch up with her old lady voice. The child was even brave enough to tackle “Mr. Magic” – Grover Washington, Jr.’s groovy tune.

If she could only have hung on, she could’ve been a contender to be some young girl’s Cher or Pattie Boyd Harrison.