They got married early, never had no money
Then when he got laid off they really hit the skids
He started up his drinking, then they started fighting
He took it pretty badly, she took both the kids
She said: “I’m not standing by, to watch you slowly die
So watch me walking, out the door”
She said, “Shove it, Jack, I’m walking out the fucking door”
She went to her brother’s, got a little bar work
He went to the Buttery, stayed about a year
Then he wrote a letter, said I want to see you
She thought he sounded better, she sent him up the fare
He was riding through the cane in the pouring rain
On Olympic to her door
He came in on a Sunday, every muscle aching
Walking in slow motion like he’d just been hit
Did they have a future? Would he know his children?
Could he make a picture and get them all to fit?
He was shaking in his seat riding through the streets
In a silvertop to her door
There’s some songs that seem to grab the imagination and allow us to join in on the action, some stories that capture the heart of those who hear it and some characters that remind us of something within ourselves.
To Her Door (released in 1987) is a song that will most likely forever be etched in the minds and hearts of (most) Australians, it’s a tune that drags you into another place, another story, another person’s life, just the sound of the first four chord changes opens the floodgates and lets the memories loose.
Whether this song is a Psalm or a Parable… or something quite different though is up for grabs (at least in my mind). Yesterday I reflected on the psalm, tonight however I’ll write of the parable…
In his book “The Orthodox Heretic” Pete Rollins asks:
“How to speak of something that cannot be said?
Is this dilemma not simultaneously both the obstacle and the opening for those who write of, and wrestle with the sacred? Is this confrontation with the abyss of the unspeakable not what makes such a writer’s job both possible and impossible at the same time, enticing the readers to step beyond, into the beyond where one cannot step?”
I really wish that I could write the entirety of the introduction to his book here and now, but I can’t. Pete’s introduction does make me wonder if I should also follow his example and instead of using the title “parable” I should use the title “tale” in writing of this song.
To Her Door is probably one of the most well known Australian modern tales, it’s a part of who we are, it speaks of love, of family, of difficulties, of the depths of our hopelessness, of relationships, of the possibility of redemption, of forgiveness and of hope.
In a way, it speaks of something that cannot be said, which is possibly why it’s sung.
In Christian circles we tell a story of a family torn apart by a son’s request for his part of his inheritance before it’s due. The story tells of how he took his share from his father and left the family business to live the good life. The tale tells of a father’s grace and ability to hope and forgive while at the same time it tells of a son’s arrogance, frailness and failures. The tale is about a lot of things, forgiveness, confession, grace, family, life choices, community and much more.
In this tale penned by Paul Kelly we are introduced to a couple who are living with a number of hopes and dreams, it’s a story of love through hardship, hope in times where it must be difficult to hope, strength where many may have given up and of faithfulness where others may have lost faith. Like the tale that we may tell together at church it’s about broken relationships and the lingering hope that reconciliation is possible.
One of the strengths of this tale is that it skips the normal conventions, we’re not unfamiliar with the concept of broken families, of relationships that have difficulties and of young love that seems to get harder when life piles on it’s stresses and hardships. Pop songs sing of broken relationships all the time, but they don’t seem to dwell on anything deeper than “I miss you” or “I’ll get over you” or perhaps “I’m moving on to someone better.” Pop songs don’t dwell on the realities behind these broken relationships, instead they focus on the “you should have put a ring on it” or “I just moved onto someone different,” it’s in these pop songs that we’re sold an ideal that relationships are all about either immediate gratification or about being together when times are good… but what about the times when life completely sucks and we have to wake up next to each other day to day knowing that it’s not going to get any better than this for a long time?
This tale celebrates the woman’s point of view as a prophetic voice that stands up for both herself and the children, and in turn the one she loves “I’m not standing by, to watch you slowly die” is a prophetic call, a strong voice, an action that, when this song is sung in public becomes almost anthemic, yes… sometimes love means that we need to be angry enough, honest enough and concerned enough to do something about it, and yes, sometimes that means leaving. But we know that this is not the end of the story, that somehow this woman finds the strength to continue going, to look after the family and to continually hope that her love will find a way out of the hole that he’s found himself in, she doesn’t seem to cut off ties, instead, much like the father in the tale told above it seems that she waits in hope and in anticipation that her love will find himself again. When he sends her a letter it’s not thrown on the fire or thrown out, instead it’s read and money is forwarded for him to return.
Parables never seem to end the way that popular thought would have them end, there’s usually a twist in the tale somewhere that takes us by shock or surprise. Where we might hear this couple’s story we could be forgiven to believe that it’s doomed to fail, that the split will be forever. After all, the rest of our the world says that it’s all over, that it was never going to be forever anyway why would this relationship ever survive?
In the end this tale never fully resolves, and we as onlookers are left with the task to complete the story in our own minds… did he get to paint a picture and get them all to fit? Did it all work out? What happened? What did he say when the cab finally arrived? How did she greet him? What happened two years down the track? Do people change?
Many of Paul’s songs sing of reconciliation and redemption, whether it be the looking towards that redemption, the hoping for reconciliation or the lack of hope or fulfillment of both. As this series continues I’m going to suggest that these two themes will appear again and again, and each time we’ll hear another story, another perspective, open another door and ask different questions of ourselves. tonight however, after it’s all said and done, after I’m reminded again and again in this tale that even the most broken of relationships hold a chance of being reconciled, and I guess that I’m left to struggle with the question of, am I a person who believes in hope?