Today we’re going to travel back in time to January 1981. The night before my family moved away to a new town. The night I sat in my bedroom, packing the rest of my teenage belongings into boxes for the move from Eugene to Ashland, listening to the radio on my dad’s FM tuner/cassette recorder, and that song came on.
You know, that song. The song that was singing about my life. The song that seemed to have been written just for me and my situation. The song that today, 33 years later, still sings perfectly to the path my life has taken in a way you can’t even imagine until you know the whole story. So I’ll tell it to you.
This is the story of the song that I’m going to walk down the aisle to when I marry my junior high school sweetheart.
Eddie and I started dating in November of 1980 as 9th graders at Jefferson Junior High. He flirted with me during gym class, then asked me to a school dance. After that, we were an item; we were ‘going together.’ We were inseparable. People called us the siamese twins because we were always stuck together (usually by the lips). We connected. I documented our relationship in my diary, a little yellow hardcover book with pink and white daisies and a flimsy lock. On November 25th, I wrote, “I think I love him.”
Right around Christmas time, my parents announced that we were moving. My mom had landed a new job at a public radio station 178 miles away, in Ashland (the same station I work at today, coincidentally). We would leave in the middle of January. I started to freak out. I most definitely did not want to be separated from Eddie. On December 29th, I wrote, “I wish I could pack Eddie up in a box and take him with me.”But that wasn’t how he saw it. Back then. Back when he was the pragmatic one, and I was the hopeless romantic. He knew it wasn’t realistic to believe we could live 3 hours away from each other and still maintain a relationship. And we were just teenagers, after all.
Here, for your reading pleasure, is a paragraph ripped directly from my 9th grade diary: “One day Eddie and I were walking to his house, and I asked him what was gonna happen when I moved? And he acted like – Boy are you dumb! – He said that we would break up…. what I wish would happen is that I go to Ashland and that we still see each other. I wish he understood that I don’t want to break up when I leave.” I thought maybe there was some way that we could still be together, and keep the fire burning from across the long distance.
So that night, that last night in Eugene, I was sitting there, packing my curling iron and makeup, listening to KSND Stereo 93, when that song came on the radio. It was The Goodbye Girl, by David Gates.
I really felt that if I could just share this song with Eddie, he’d understand that there was still hope for us. That maybe, somehow, we could live far apart, almost never see each other, and still stay together. So I pushed the Record button on the cassette player, and taped the song. I wrote in my diary that I was planning to give the cassette tape to him as a goodbye gift.
Right now, Eddie’s feeling a little a lot like I just threw him under the bus. That’s because these days he’s the hopeless romantic, and I’m the pragmatic one. And in the end, I moved away, and moved on in pretty short order. I did try to look Eddie up once, when I visited Eugene once later that year, and found that he had moved away too. And then, within pretty short order, I had another boyfriend that was my steady throughout the rest of high school.
Somewhere down the line, Eddie became a hopeless romantic. And then 27 years later, just at the right time, he started thinking about me again. He’d kept a photo of me that he’d taken way back when we were teenagers, on the front page of a photo album that he kept with him of his most precious memories. On the front page. He started to wonder what had happened to that girl who’d said goodbye, and finally (when someone shoved an Ashland phonebook into his hand), he called the only Ing in the book. My parents.
That’s how, five years ago, exactly when I needed him, Eddie came back into my life. My parents called me and said some guy claiming to be my junior high school boyfriend wanted to get in touch with me. So I invited him down to Redding, and met him in front of the Cascade Theatre. The first thing he did was tell me to take off my sunglasses. “There’s the girl I remember,” he said.
He brought an old photo album to dinner, and when I opened it, I was shocked to see that the photo in the center of the first page was me at 15. A photo Eddie had taken of me sitting on the deck of my parent’s house. That was when I knew that he had kept me close to his heart all those years.
And then, when I pulled out my old yellow diary with the pink and white daisies, and he saw “Eddie + Valerie” written on the inside cover, he knew he had to go for broke.
So for us, goodbye didn’t mean forever. Just like the song, which I had completely forgotten about. I didn’t remember how I’d sat in my bedroom on my last night before moving away, recording that tune for him thinking that maybe there was a way for teenage love to be sustained across time and distance. Not until a few years ago, when Eddie and I were sitting in an otherwise empty dining hall at a remote lodge in Agness, Oregon on the lower Rogue River. We were eating breakfast, and the kitchen staff was listening to Oldies, which wafted out into the dining room. The Goodbye Girl came on, and within a few moments, my eyes got really big. Then the tears came, and then Eddie said, “What’s wrong, baby?” I couldn’t even speak until the song was half over. Then, with tears streaming down my face, I told him about that night, and that song, and what it meant to me, and how more than 30 years later, although we’d said goodbye, we had found each other and rekindled our relationship again. And now we were living that song, and finding a way to successfully maintain a relationship that was keeping the fire burning even though we lived 5 hours apart.
Well, that’s the story of the song I’ll be walking down the aisle to at my wedding. How could I walk to anything else? It means everything to me. To us. It truly is the story of our entire relationship, from its beginning in the fall of 1980, to present day, 33 years later. That song kicks off today’s playlist with the greatest Goodbye and Hello songs of all time.
I’d love to hear the story of the song you walked to at your wedding in the comments section below as you listen to today’s playlist.
- Goodbye Girl – Bread/David Gates
- Hello My Old Heart – The Oh Hello’s
- Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp
- Hello, I Love You – The DOors
- She Said Goodbye – Maroon 5
- Hello Seattle – Owl City
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
- Hello – Lionel Ritchie
- Goodbye Girl – The Civil Wars
- Goodbye Sadness – Astrud Gilberto
- Hello – Oasis
- Never Can Say Goodbye – Jackson 5
- Hello Goodbye – The Beatles (but in this case, due to forces beyond my control, it’s the Jonas Bros. Don’t judge!)
- Hello – Martin Solveig featuring Dragonette
- Goodbye – Miley Cyrus
- Hello – Maroon 5
- Sweetest Goodbye – Maroon 5
- Hello – The Cat Empire
- Goodbye Babylon – The Black Keys
- Hello Bonjour – Michael Franti & Spearhead
- Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks
- Hello Darlin’ – Conway Twitty
- Goodbye Little Darlin’ – Johnny Cash
- Hello Little Girl Goodbye – Chuck Berry
- Say Goodbye – Dave Matthews Band
- Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – David Gray
- So Long, Goodbye – 10 Years
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for over a decade, and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and an adorable West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music.
She’s often spotted driving around town singing at the top of her lungs to new wave hits from the 80’s, but at work Valerie hosts the afternoon classical show Siskiyou Music Hall (at 90.9 FM in Shasta County or streaming at ijpr.org).