Approaching 40: Sailing

Sometime in 1979 or 1980, my dad got a new company car. It had an FM stereo with one of those antennas that would retract. Back then, we used to make the trip from Warwick, Rhode Island to Spring Valley, New York with fair regularity. We’d hop onto I-95 and sit on that road for nearly 3 hours, as we passed through the length of Connecticut. Of course, we’d listen to the radio while we drove.

One time, I recall going with just my dad. We were driving along toward sunset. As we passed through New Haven the Long Island sound was orange and countless sailboats spread across its surface. Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” came on the radio. I remember this distinctly: my dad grew very excited. “The bells!” he clamored, “Listen to the bells!” As the song opens there are bells in the background and in our fancy new car stereo, you could (apparently) hear them chime throughout the car.

Ever since, Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” has reminded me of the drive from Warwick to Spring Valley. Indeed, the song is emblematic of that drive. There are many songs that I recall along that route (“Upside Down”, “Rosanna”, “Queen of Hearts”, “Africa”, “Leader of the Band”) but no song makes me thing of that drive more than “Sailing,” Those trips were special because it meant that we were going to visit my grandparents, and I loved going to visit my grandparents. And, of course, there was the coincidence of our timing, passing through New Haven with the sun setting on the Long Island sound dotted with sailboats. That image is forever associated with the song. It was a long drive for an eight-year old, but it was always a happy drive, at least in my memory of it.


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