Mary Jane - for my mom on her birthday

Friday, November 10, 2017

When I was in the sixth grade, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album was everything to me. It was one of the first cd's I owned, I knew all the words to all the songs and sang along with them (much to the dismay of my mom at times - she politely explained that it wasn't a great idea for me to belt out all of the words to You Oughta Know...) It was an iconic album for all of the girls in my class, and we bonded over creating new lyrics to Ironic to share some of our elementary school problems.

I grew up listening to a lot of music in our household. My parents introduced me to Motown, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Madonna, Bob Marley, Sheryl Crow and more. Alanis made her way into the rotation, and I was proud to share the same musical tastes as my mom.

There was one song on the album that we disagreed about: track nine - Mary Jane. At that time it was probably my least favourite and I would skip over it whenever we were listening to the cd. If my mom was around, she would ask me to go back and play the song. I didn't understand why she liked it so much, and hadn't yet come to the realization that perhaps it was the song on the album that she most related to. I would oblige and let the song play out.

The year that album became a favourite in our house was a tough one for our family. We were living two hours away from Toronto, almost all of our friends and family were back home, my dad was commuting back and forth for work, and my mom was especially unhappy. It was really hard on all of us, and I know an especially bad year for my mom's depression. We lost her less than two years later.

After my mom's death, Mary Jane had new meaning.

It's a long way down
On this roller coaster
The last chance streetcar
Went off the track
And you're on it...

What's the matter Mary Jane?
Tell me...

Spending time reading her journal and examining the time leading up to her death gave me new insight into how she may have been feeling, and why this song resonated with her so deeply.

This will be the 20th time I've watched her birthday pass on the calendar since her death.
In February it will be 20 years since she's been gone.
I still wish we were celebrating her birthday together. 

I've sang Mary Jane many times since my mom died - on my own, in the shower, in rehearsal and in shows. It holds a special place in my heart, because I know it was a song my mom really enjoyed. I wish she too could have watched me sing it onstage. While the rest of Jagged Little Pill holds a lot of nostalgia for me, Mary Jane is on another level. 

I never skip track 9 anymore.

Happy birthday mom xo


Ashley Gibson Piano: Tara Litvack Guitar: Brandon Wall

Recorded at the 120 Diner by Chris James. Special thanks to Jeni Walls
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