Late last night, I posted episode 118 of DLTDGB, in which character-Greg attends the youth group at Jeromeville Covenant Church as a leader for the first time. For the most part, that really happened to me, with the exact same back story. Because of that, I will refer to the people who inspired that story using the names of the characters in DLTDGB rather than their real names.
I really was minding my own business after church when Zac, Ted, and Danny randomly decided they wanted to hang out with me. I really did take them to lunch, and to Ted’s house, and we really did float on a raft. Taylor really did ask me, after seeing my new friendship with these boys, if I wanted to try being a youth group leader, and I really did have a great time as a youth group leader.
But what I don’t remember is what actually happened that night. I remember the basic outline of a youth group meeting: meet with staff, welcome kids, introduce new kids, game, announcements, song, introduce the lesson, discuss in small groups. That’s really how it went. I don’t know what the lesson was that night. I remember a few specific lessons from my years as a youth group leader, but most of them I remember because of some other back story that wasn’t connected to being a new youth leader. So I just made something up. Hopefully it was realistic.
Another thing I don’t remember is who all was there. A lot of the youth leaders during the time I was there started out with junior high, but then one year they would find a group of kids they particularly bonded with, and when that group graduated to the high school group, that leader would follow them to the high school group. I’m pretty sure Barefoot James switched to high school the year after the one I’m writing about, and some people, I don’t remember if they were junior high leaders, or high school, or both at various times. Some people I also don’t remember which group they led in which year. But, more importantly, in trying to reconstruct my memories of that year, I found that I remembered more guy leaders than girl leaders.
So Kate isn’t real. It seems like there must have been another girl leader that year besides Courtney, Erica, Abby, and Charlotte, but I don’t remember who it was for sure. I remember at least two other girl leaders who came the following year, but they definitely weren’t around in the spring of 1997. So I just made someone up. I’m a writer, DLTDGB is intended to be fiction, so it’s okay to make up a character.
When I was working with The Edge, every year Adam would make a mix tape of different styles of Christian music. At Winter Camp, Adam would hand out copies of the mix tape to everyone who was there. (For those of you who weren’t born in 1997 and don’t understand what the technology was like back then, whenever you see “mix tape,” pretend for now that it says “playlist.” It’s the same idea.) The youth department at J-Cov also kept a music library for people to borrow tapes and CDs of Christian music. Since I had just joined the youth staff, I did not get a copy of Edge Mix ’97, but I borrowed it from the music library and made a copy at some point. I also have Edge Mixes from several other years, and they all still exist as MP3 playlists on my computer and phone. (Most people have moved on to streaming technology for music by 2022. I mostly haven’t, but that’s not relevant to this discussion.)
Some of the artists featured on the Edge Mixes had long and successful careers in the Christian music industry, and some of those, like Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, and Sixpence None the Richer, also crossed into the mainstream. (By the way, I hate pigeonholing artists as Christian or secular, the music and lyrics should speak for themselves, but I’m going to have to do that somewhat for the purpose of telling this story.) Other artists on Edge Mixes were popular briefly and have mostly been forgotten, and many were essentially one-hit wonders to me, artists whom I only ever knew from one song that appeared on one Edge Mix.
I did not have a song in mind for this episode, so as I was finishing writing it, I put on Edge Mix ’97, hoping to find a song from there that was catchy, memorable, or meaningful enough to connect to the episode, but also one that I was not saving for any other particular memory. If the song itself did not have lyrics that could be connected to the story, I would just mention at some point that the song was playing in the background. When I got to “All Fall Down” by Sarah Masen, I thought, yeah, I think this is going to be the song, if I could find it on YouTube in 2022. Was this song too obscure to find on YouTube? Fortunately, it was not; not only did I find the song, from an official source that would not get taken down for copyright violations, but the link was an actual music video. It also made sense to mention Sarah Masen at this point because my keenly astute readers have probably noticed that I like to drop hints about things that will happen in future episodes. There will definitely be one more episode involving Sarah Masen, late in year 5, in the spring of 1999.
I had never seen the music video for All Fall Down before yesterday. In 1997, I wasn’t really in a position to watch a lot of music videos. I didn’t have cable, MTV didn’t play music videos anymore for most of the day, and I was listening to a lot of Christian music that wouldn’t get played on MTV anyway. I didn’t have a way to watch specifically Christian music videos. My first reaction upon seeing this video a quarter-century later was that it was adorably weird, in a good way. With the way Sarah was awkwardly dancing in front of the camera like no one was watching, had I seen this video back in 1997 I might have had another celebrity crush. Sarah was a Christian, and she wasn’t that much older than me. (Wikipedia says she was born in January of 1975, a difference of 19 months; that would have made her around 21 in that video.)
As I continued putting the finishing touches on that episode, I got to thinking more about Sarah Masen. There was that one other memory about her from the spring of 1999. And I remember reading somewhere that there was some family connection with Switchfoot, that her sister was married to Switchfoot’s lead singer Jon Foreman, or something like that. Wikipedia confirmed this last part, and also said that Sarah performed backing vocals on one of Jon’s solo projects, which I have, but I don’t listen to often these days. I don’t know if I made that connection in my early thirties when that particular Jon Foreman album was released.
I also realized something else. Sure, I still listen to Edge Mix ’97 often enough these days that I’ve never forgotten All Fall Down, and that was the only song of hers on an Edge Mix. But Sarah Masen was certainly not a one-hit wonder whom I only knew from that one song. I was legitimately a fan at one time. I have THREE whole albums of hers in the closet where I keep all my old CDs, and on my computer and phone. And I used to listen to those CDs regularly in my 20s. And those songs still come up sometimes when I put my music on shuffle, even though I haven’t listened to any of those albums from start to finish in decades.
So last night, as I was finishing DLTDGB, I put on all three of Sarah Masen’s albums from that era, start to finish. Unlike most people from my era who stopped listening to 90s Christian music as adults, I’ve held on to some of my favorites from back then in my regular rotation. But for some reason, Sarah Masen dropped out of the rotation. I don’t know why. It’s good music.
Rediscovering good music from my past is one of the great things about getting older, and one of the great things about writing a nostalgic period fiction blog. It’s almost like getting to experience something for the first time all over again. After all, someone once told me in a very memorable experience, “Forgetting makes remembering sweeter.”
And do you know who it was who told me those exact words?
It was none other than Ms. Sarah Masen. The time I met her, in the spring of 1999.
But that is a story for another time…