I was six years old when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out.
Several years ago, my own kids discovered and loved the Beatles; my younger is obsessive, and loved them the most. learning everything about them. We got a new, remastered box set, and she’s been teaching me Beatles songs and trivia I never knew at all. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the Beatles appeal is timeless. I’ve been hearing them – all of it. I only always owned Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road, and the White Album all through the intervening years, on LP and then CD – a lot over the last five or ten years, and I’ve come to think that ‘She’s Leaving Home’ is the super-emotional, semi-classical song that first made me think about what is so wrong with so much of parenting.
(There it is!)
“What did we do that was wrong?
We didn’t know it was wrong . . . “
These poor parents can’t understand it, they did the best they could. Their world is imploding because their daughter has left home, with nothing but a short note, with no apparent thought for the parents who thought they had loved her so well.
If the girl did give a backward glance on her way to the man in the motor trade, the Beatles didn’t mention it.
This was always heart-wrenching to me; I think I was born pre-disposed to heartbreak, adult loss of love always got me, even as a young kid, I could always feel the heartbreak in adult stories. I had a strange sort of fantasy through my early teens where I would be an adult man with children who had somehow lost his wife and the kids their mother, living as a single, grieving father, somehow that sort of tragedy appealed to me, romantically. But these crying parents in the song, these sad people who can’t understand why they should suffer this loss, this stayed with me, it marked me.
This is the tragedy that drives me, that drives my philosophy. But there’s a point to this.
Of course, if you’ve read my stuff at all, you know what I think caused it. You know why I think the parents are so unconsciously remorseful, and how that young girl could do this to them.
It’s not just about the the kids for me. This one is for the parents.
We are all the subjects of this tragedy. And twice, coming and going, we are all both of them. We are the girl, who runs away about as soon as she’s old enough to attract a mate, and we are also the grieving parents losing their child.
“She’s leaving home . . . bye, bye.”