Change–Going The Distance

I don’t like change very much. I cried every time I tried to finish the song,“The Distance.” It’s a song about my son growing up and out of the house. It took me 5 years, really, to put the final lines together and then let it go, move on. Planted on my padded piano bench, my hands gently pressing into the chords, I would sing the first few words in the verse:

The sun sets as we drive the Trace

I’ll never forget this side of your face

It’s not the same as it was, so much has changed since I met you.

My heart would immediately connect with the image in my head: my young teenage son and me driving together on the Natchez Trace, a winding, scenic roadway close to our home. Although it stretches from Nashville, Tennessee to Tupelo, Mississippi, there’s a short section that connects a friend’s house to ours.

the Natchez Trace bridge in Nashville Tennessee

Way back then, Julian and I were crossing the lovely Natchez Trace Bridge which spans a yawning valley. The sky was sunset orange. In the glow to my right, I saw that my son was a young man in transformation. Soon, he would be in the driver’s seat and I would be the passenger. Not long after that, he wouldn’t need me at his side at all. The road before us began to stretch out in ways that my heart didn’t want to face.

Julian had already changed so much in the fourteen years I’d known him. But I knew there was more change to come. For that reason, whenever I sat at my piano determined to finish the song, the words got stuck in my throat.


In the awkward silences of Julian’s early teenage years, music was our connection. What kept us talking was our love of the melody and lyrics. A great song can really go the distance, keep its impact despite the flow of time all around it.

In the car, we’d sing along with our favorite songs, working out the harmonies and talking about the lyrics. One particular song by the group, Death Cab For Cutie, was a puzzle to both of us. What did “Transatlanticism” mean? What deeper message was hidden in the song’s images?

Part of its attractiveness was its mystery, the blank spaces left for us to fill. Somehow, it was a bridge in the growing gap between mother and son. It helped me to forge ahead with finishing, “The Distance.”

Change:young Julian DenteWe can’t always connect what’s between us now

And these silent stretches are longer somehow

We turn the music way up loud

And wonder what the song’s about

And the music spans the distance

It’s our transatlanticism

Love and Letting Go

As my son became a man, I finally finished and recorded my song about change and going the distance. Julian writes and records his own music now. He drives his own roads and goes places far from where we first traveled together. His songs keep me and the whole family talking. We all love the chord changes he chooses and sometimes we embarrass him with our enthusiasm.

Thankfully, I can say that I’m glad he has grown up and gone on without me. It’s good when sons—and songs—grow up and move on. He certainly comes back to visit and keeps me up to date on his latest favorite songs. The music he’s making is all his own yet has hints of his beginnings, links that connect him to home.

change: going the distance

Yeah, we always go together now

But I know what I know, soon I’ll slow you down

The time will come when I can’t keep up

And you’ll go on without me

Whether in small increments or large sweeps, change is a guarantee. How I traverse it is key.

Julian has a lovely wife and a son of his own now. I am learning to live with the distance that makes for a great relationship; mothers and sons are complicated! I am still listening closely to every lyric he writes and wondering what the song’s about. But I don’t have to figure it all out anymore or even assign meaning to every little bump in the road.

Trying to enjoy this ride we call life, I can see the mystery as attractive rather than scary. Find the beauty, deal with the impermanence, and go the distance with change. I’ll finish one song so I can move on to write the next one, connecting the changes in a chain of love and letting go.

Now we’re staring at that last bridge

And it feels like the Atlantic

Let the music span the distance

Read more about this and other songs in my book, Lifelines and the article, “Animal House!”

Listen to “The Distance” song and 9 others in A Little Light Left.

Thanks for listening and for going the distance with me.

Full lyric for “The Distance”

change: going the distance

8 thoughts on “Change–Going The Distance”

  1. Going thru the exact same thing with son #2. In two more years, it will be son #3 (and my last). Indeed, relationships between sons and moms are complicated. And so true, when my son writes his songs, I don’t have to try to figure out what every line means. It’s his story, not mine. I’ve been a fan forever Christine. If you’re ever near West Michigan, I’m there.

    • Well, said, Julie and thanks for commenting. May the road for you and your sons be full of grace and love and music!

  2. As usual, Christine, your writing is both powerful and poignant. Our memories are both marvelous and mysterious, as none of us can remember everything, but God often blesses us with snapshots that can instantly transport us to a particular time and place — such as the one you share about in the song of glancing over to see Julian in profile as you are driving. Singers and songwriters carry that further by capturing their memories with entire songs, and we listeners benefit in turn by associating those songs with times and places in our own lives. Did you ever see the Terrence Malick movie “The Tree of Life”? That sense of nostalgia is what made that movie so powerful for those who “got it” (not everyone gets it). Thank you for continuing to share your journey with all of us.

  3. Thank you for sharing the story behind this song. I enjoy knowing it. It’s one of a handful on your album Still A Little Light Left that often make me cry because the album entered my life shortly after my dad passed away. That season of painful change resonated deeply with the themes of change and, in many ways, loss featured in that album. My own loss superimposed itself over many of the lines in a number of those songs, with this one being one of the stronger cases in point.

    I had the honor of communicating a bit with you about some of this over e-mail and then Skype as part of a Kickstarter package. I know you expressed sentiments then that are also fittingly stated above – that there comes a time for songs to “grow up and move on,” and that you embrace that your songs may come to mean something different to others than they meant to you. Still, while a song or even just a turn of phrase may resonate with me in a very personal way, I appreciate knowing what an artist actually meant and benefitting from the experience they were trying to convey, as well. In addition, in this case, though I still feel strong resonances with this song, those resonances are in some ways a bit discordant due to the fact that the experience that loomed largest in my life at the time and imposed itself over this words was in important ways very different from the experience you were describing. In certain interesting ways parallel, but still crucially different. At any rate, I appreciate having additional perspective on where you were coming from to provide a balance against my first associations.

    As I just a few months ago had a son of my own, maybe one day this song will come to resonate with me in a way more in line with the experience in your life that inspired it. Then I’ll be able to benefit from your perspective on that season as, down the road, I approach it myself.

    • Thanks for showing me what my song meant to you and means to you. It’s a humbling privilege to know your story and to be a small part of it ( :


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