Hotel California

Mistakes happen…

Wrong link. Wrong tag. It is after all called Weekly Writing Challenge. So in response to the theme Moved by Music here it is:


The year I went through the first part of my French baccalaureate. French was my favorite subject and I was not too worried, yet I had to excel in order to get my baccalaureate, the mandatory entry ticket to the French universities.

I studied alone and with a few friends on Saturday afternoons. We quizzed each other but we also gossiped about our classmates, planned our future and dreamed of the upcoming summer.

During these grey, rainy Normandy afternoons we endlessly played the newly released Hotel California.

The song had been an instant hit in France, and although neither my friends nor I spoke English well enough to understand the meaning of the lyrics, we learned them by heart and sang at the top of our lungs until our mothers begged us to stop.

The date of the exam arrived and despite the time I had spent listening and singing “Hotel California” I aced the test.

As a celebration gift my dad took me to the beach every day for a whole week. He traveled a lot and I barely saw him. So in June 1977 the two of us walked for hours on the long Normandy beaches, only stopping for lunch and an afternoon snack before heading home for dinner.

Inside each café, each bakery, each ice cream shop the song “Hotel California” played.

“Ta chanson,” my dad would say.

Yes, it was my song.

I could have been fed up with the lyrics and the melody, but the more I heard the song the more I loved it.

I didn’t know yet that it would remain this way for the rest of my life.

A month later, I joined my parents and my sister for what would be our last family vacation together.

“Hotel California” played everywhere.

In July I fell in love for the first time. I was sixteen.

I got my first real kiss under a star lit sky. Behind us, someone strummed the opening notes of “Hotel California” on his guitar.

Years have passed.

I now live in California. My kids don’t especially like the song “Hotel California.” They don’t dislike it either. I realize that no particular emotion hits them when the song plays.

But me? I can’t help but hum the melody. If I’m alone, I sing along and tears well up in my eyes.

They are not tears of regret for my past, only tears of joy.

I feel grateful to have one song that sums up some of the most important experiences of a lifetime.

Recently one of my friends, a southern California native, mentioned “Hotel California” in conversation. My heart sped up at the name, but I almost brought my hands to my ears to block my friend’s voice when she started to explain the lyrics.

I don’t want to know, I thought. That’s my song.

I felt possessive and realized that my dad was right when he had called “Hotel California” ma chanson. I had made this song mine. I didn’t want anyone to explain the meaning of the metaphors. They had sounded cryptic in 1977 and had to remain mysterious.

“Hotel California” is no longer my favorite song the way it was in 1977. Although it won awards and topped every other song back then, it is not a perfect song. I have never liked long guitar solos in the first place.

But in the same way only people who share your hometown can criticize it, no one is allowed to discuss the song that embodies a whole year of your life.

Hotel California sings the end of my high school life.

Hotel California sings special dad-daughter moments.

Hotel California sings my last childhood summer vacation.

Hotel California sings my first love.

Years have passed.

My high school friends are names and memories.

My dad recently passed.

I built my own family.

I fell in love with another man.

Yes, years have passed and I feel lucky to have one song that rocked a whole year of my life and is forever etched inside me like an indelible tattoo.

And whenever it plays, for six minutes and ten seconds I am in 1977.


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