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The Song That Changed Your Life

Helpless by Debra McGrath

This story is on the shortlist for The Song That Changed Your Life challenge. 


Video source: Youtube

We had just moved to L.A. I was starting a job that had been in the works for almost a year. The bona fide offer was so long in coming that when it finally came, I was seven months pregnant with my first child. As much as I had wanted this job to come through was not half as much as I wanted a baby. I was thirty-six, married a year and desperate for a child. So at eight months pregnant, I found myself working ten hour days in a studio writers room thirty-five hundred kilometers from my home. 

I was homesick, not just for family but for Canada. The people we met in L.A. were wonderful, but it wasn’t the home I was born and raised in. Somewhere in my ninth month my husband and I were eating dinner at a lovely bistro and my labour pains started. Accompanying the pain much to my chagrin, was a string of loud resonant belches. As we crossed to the parking lot, my belches were becoming louder and longer, just what you want from a belch. As I failed miserably at masking the belches, we suddenly heard muffled giggles beside us and turned to see Carol Kane and Diane Keaton, fluctuating between laughter and sympathetic glances. This was not the way I had hoped to meet these talented ladies. 

At this point I should mention that I conceived at 98 pounds and to this point had gained seventy more. I was a sight. As wide as I was tall I galmumphed across the road and into our car, where upon the Braxton hicks that I had thought was labour, just stopped. We got home and my husband made me a tea and on the radio as if timed as a soundtrack came Neil Young’s words “there’s a town in North Ontario” and my own feeling of “Helpless” overtook me. I sobbed so much one would think my water had broken so wet was I with tears. That song made me realize that I would never be happy in L.A. For me, with a baby on the way I needed the anchor of home desperately. So when my gig ended we packed up for home. 

Thanks Neil. Your timing was impeccable. The baby’s, not so much. Two weeks overdue. 

Debra McGrath is from Toronto, ON.

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