A goodbye song from a mother to a daughter, although one that understands that for a parent goodbyes are a constant, because from that intense intimacy you start out with (“You were Mutt to my Jeff/I was Jack to your Jill”) there’s nowhere to go but separation. Gradual, but inevitable: “the way of the world.”
A dream of eating a Lugar’s steak stands in for all the shared dreams you have with your child when they are young (on first listening I thought the dream was for a “new girl state,” which would have fit but been far more grandiose than I’ve ever heard from Amy Rigby) and a drop-off to hang with friends for all the times we release our kids into the world beyond us, without us. The daughter does carry something with her, as she heads out alone to “plant the flag:” too young for a pocketbook, she has instead a plastic drugstore bag filled her make-up, her cell phone, a box of mints…all the things from home she thinks she’ll need as she makes her journeys away from home.
These goodbyes aren’t only sad, there’s excitement as you watch your children set out on their own, but they are sad too: “Now we’re sometimes together but mostly apart/It makes sense in my head but not in my heart.” In the last verse the singer opens a box from storage, digs out the artifacts of the past, souvenirs and photographs from long-ago vacations, and even here that old Genovese bag her daughter used to carry. Maybe, looking at it, the singer finds herself wondering what her daughter carries now, for preparation, for protection. Finds herself hoping whatever it is, is up to the task.
A long instrumental coda follows, a lullaby-like acoustic strum yielding to a stinging, Richard Thompson-esque electric guitar. Because memory sometimes does start out in lullaby and end up somewhere spikier.