I have a distinct memory of being five years old, sitting in the back of my mom’s car, and stubbornly looking out the window of the car, watching the raindrops form on the window and the cows sulk in the fields. My mom had just put Tom Petty’s album Wildflowers in our CD player for what I considered the umpteenth time and I desperately wanted to listen to the Steve Miller Band, because of their funky audio techniques and “made up words.” (To be fair, it took years for me to register that “The Joker” was the song I wanted to hear, or even that the Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits was the CD I was talking about…) But I was confident and stubborn and convinced Tom Petty was the worst artist of all time.
I retold this story a few weeks ago, sitting in the Cellar with a group of friends late on a Friday night. I was wearing an old Tom Petty shirt and it came to light that he was my favorite artist. I received a few smiles and nods and one, “I’m so proud of her, I can’t believe Tom Petty is her favorite artist.”
To which I followed up, “Yeah, and I had a Rod Stewart phase in sixth grade.” Which, to be fair, brought more confused looks than anything else.
But sometime in between kindergarten and my “Rod Steward phase” my opinion on Tom Petty shifted. Somehow I knew all of the words to every song and instead of being irked when my mom put in Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits album, I would loudly sing along and roll down the windows.
I burned CD’s of my favorite songs and convinced my mom to go his concert the summer before my freshman year here. Hunted down a watercolor painting on Etsy with the phrase, “You belong among the wildflowers” as a homework break during my freshman year, for a Christmas present for my mother.
And Wildflowers, that album five year old me was convinced I’d hate forever, is still the album I pull up on my phone, whenever I’m having a bad day. There’s something about Wildflowers and the sun peaking through a rainy day on Commencement Walk that can’t help but make me feel better. For that, I’m grateful.
For more on Tom Petty, here is a wonderful article by the New York Times.