The truth is, I loved Taylor Swift first.
I loved her from the minute I heard “Tim McGraw” on the radio and she captured bittersweet romance so expertly that it was like she had witnessed firsthand the breakdown of my own whirlwind summer fling, from the unread letters to the unrequited love, and put a pen to my pain.
I loved her at my wedding, when I danced to “Our Song” with my new groom, brimming with gratitude that someone had come along who was, in fact, as good as our song.
And I loved her at 3 a.m. during those sleepless, bleary-eyed days of new motherhood as I whispered “You Belong with Me” to my baby daughter –– the new light and love of my life.
But no matter how much I try to claim Swift, sharing her with my daughters, who are now 14 and 11 and also wholeheartedly assert that she is their generation’s own, has been among my greatest joys. Because, truth be told, the Eras Tour is a love story for moms and daughters for whom Swift’s music has become the soundtrack of their lives.
RELATED: Finding MGK, music and magic in Cleveland
In what seems like the blink of an eye, my girls have gone from Anna- and Elsa-costumed toddlers belting “Bad Blood” at the top of their lungs to middle-schoolers who rail against the patriarchy while deconstructing each word of songs like “The Man.” Even as stages, seasons and schools change in our lives, Swift’s music –– and her importance –– stay constant.
It’s fitting, really, because we’ve watched Swift undergo her own metamorphosis. Much like a backstage costume change, the sweet, doe-eyed teenage country crooner we sang along with in the early 2000s has transformed into a sweeping powerhouse who has used her influence to strive for equality and justice for marginalized groups in a way that has transformed her into the role model of parents’ dreams.
She fought back and won a lawsuit against a man who sexually assaulted her so it would be an example to other women that we have to keep fighting. She started re-recording all of her albums to reclaim them after her entire catalog was sold against her will. She has become an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. And she has used her platform to elevate dancers, musicians and actors of color, time and time again. Without fail, I find myself pointing to her actions and telling my girls, “See what she’s doing? She’s changing history.”
Which is how, of course, we found ourselves at Swift’s Arlington show at AT&T Stadium in early April. After missing out on tickets due to the Ticketmaster fiasco, we bought third-party tickets with an “obstructed view” – read, you can’t see the front of the stage – just to be there and experience Eras in person.
My 14-year-old dressed as “22” Taylor (Not a Lot Going on at the Moment T-shirt, red heart sunglasses). My 11-year-old donned the same oversized T-shirt we bought at the first concert she went to back in 2016. And I wore the infamous red scarf referenced in “All Too Well,” an accessory I thought was clever but my girls thought was maybe a little cringey, particularly when paired with Birkenstocks.
No matter. We had the time of our lives.
RELATED: Heeding the call of Nashville’s siren song
It felt like not a single chair in the 80,000-capacity stadium was empty. We were so excited to get to our seats that we kicked over a seatmate’s beer. We sang so loud we lost our voices. Some of us (it’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me) may have cried. Because to hear Swift sing on the stage is to hear more than words. It’s to listen to a storytelling of the fabric that weaves our lives together.
What a joy to watch Taylor grow into the woman she was meant to be. And what a privilege to watch my daughters do the same.
Taylor Swift performs during the April stop of her Eras Tour at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Kristin Finan photo
The day after the concert, as we were poring over the set list with eggs and hash browns at breakfast, my 14-year-old highlighted one of the songs Swift played that I hadn’t known: “Marjorie.”
Swift wrote the “Evermore” track after the death of her grandmother, and without saying it explicitly, my daughter intimated that the song had given her great comfort, too, after the sudden and devastating death of her grandpa –– my dad –– in December.
“You should really listen to the lyrics, Mom,” my daughter said earnestly. And so, a little later, I did. And soon I understood the solace that she had discovered in a song I never knew, one that urges that maybe even if someone dies, they’re still alive. With us.
The student becomes the teacher. My daughter becomes my guide. And the Eras Tour is indeed a love story for moms and daughters.
In the game of life, as Swift has taught us, drinks may be spilled, reputations may be ruined and karma will always come back around. If we’re lucky, the most we can hope for is to find the one, or the ones, who make us feel whole and stitch ourselves to them for as long as we can.
They’re messages I’ll never forget. Memories I’ll never forget. And albums that I hope will continue to come, echoing moments from all of life’s phases, for many, many more years.
Dearest Taylor, thank you, from me and my girls, for providing the soundtrack to our lives.