the stories behind the song and video of conversations with z
One day, two moms stood in a parking lot and talked about collaborating artistically. Below is the story of how the song, "Conversations with Z", was born and and how two women's love of creating came together and brought forth a new piece of art in the form of a video. There are elements of both joy and sorrow in our stories, and making this video was a true labor of love and healing for both us. We sincerely hope that by sharing our stories in this way, others will be inspired to tell their stories and find their own unique creative healing process. We are grateful for the opportunity to share ourselves with you in this way. xo, T&S
When my daughter was seven years old, I began writing a song about her. One day I was sitting on the bed working on the song, and she burst through the door saying, "Are you writing a song about me?" I said, "Yes! Please get out! I want to surprise you!" (I probably didn't actually say please or say it near as nice as you read it in your head) But she put her hands on her hips and said, "I've got some ideas for you." So she jumped up on the bed, asked me to sing her the first verse and then she sang back a second verse to me in a perfect rhyme scheme that fit exactly with the melody and a SONG WAS BORN! She wrote the second verse almost entirely by herself, and managed to work the words "gross hot lunch" into a song beautifully.
Since then, I have performed the song hundreds of times. It is almost always people's favorite song and they usually wonder how I get through the song without crying. The truth is, it's never been an extremely emotional song to me, because I live it every single day. It's just always been a story from the chronicles of my day to day life. But when a friend and I started talking about making a video, this song began taking on an entirely new and different meaning for me. I began to see this story through the eyes of other moms, and I was able to connect to the song in a way that I never had before.
I have cried many times in the making and editing of "Conversations With Z", because I got to see this creation through the eyes of my dear friend and fellow creator, Trina Cash. She has a "Z" of her own, whose story has brought a beautiful newness to this song. And in connecting to it through her eyes, I was able to remember the moment when my snuggly little girl, who now wears my same shoe size and can barely fit in my lap, climbed up on my bed and created an incredible piece of art with me in the most mundane of ways. It's funny how telling your own stories can make you understand and identify with other people's stories, which in turn helps you to understand your own stories and maybe have a little more grace for yourself in the process.
My hope is that other moms and daughters (or whomever needs to see it) will watch this video a feel a sense of understanding too, as they navigate the tricky waters of "growing up". None of it is easy and we all mess up, but for me, recognizing and capturing those quiet moments of joy and victory make it all worth the moment to moment struggles of parenting.
I had heard the song at least a year before we filmed the video. I thought it very sweet, very honest, and it conjured all sorts of images that seemed fitting for the project. Kids riding bikes at sunset, playgrounds, maybe a food fight. Shelley and I met numerous times, trying out different ideas, finally plotting out a shot list that seemed just right. Filming went smoothly and we shot in just two days. -I knew we were creating something special for this very special song.
Not once during this process did I connect my own “Z” to the song. My Zack.
My Z, who died over 10 years ago.
While I was editing, putting the puzzle pieces of the video together, I got to the line “We both know we’re chasing time.” And it hit me. Hard. My Zack. He had once said to me, “I don’t want to grow up.” And he didn’t. He is forever 13 in my thoughts and memories. As Shellee sings, “We both know we’re chasing time.” The honesty of that line took my breath away.
I went back to the beginning of the song and re-listened, not just as a mom with oodles of children (at last count 6 - biological, adopted, and blended) but as a mom of a son gone too soon. And the song changed for me. Became even more meaningful to me. It's not just about moms and daughters. The beauty of Shellee’s song is not that it is sweet, that it is cute (though it is both), but that it is universal. We know this. Children grow up before we’re ready, and kids want to hang on to childhood as long as they can. What happens during those day-to-day events is wonderfully magical in their ordinariness. Because it won’t last; it can’t. And we need to remember those moments. Those little arguments and quirks and hugs and silliness matter. So much more than you can realize.
What grieving parents know all too well is sometimes they don’t grow up. Every day with a child is precious, a gift. This song is a gift, between mother and daughter, between mother and son. It is my hope that any parent who listens will hear the truth of it, the life it breathes, and know that their children are always theirs, no matter their age, no matter where they are. We all need that reminder now and again.