“Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
in a world that keeps on pushing me around
But I’ll stand my ground, and I won’t back down”
As we belted out the words to Tom Petty’s feisty anthem, fists pumping along with the rest of the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus, the decades seemed to melt away
All of a sudden, it was just me, a 31-year-old newly single mom, sitting at the steering wheel beside a four-year-old tow-headed boy, cruising the south-of-the-border roads to the seaside resort town of San Carlos, Mexico.
The year was 1989, and we were on our first official road trip. Technically, there were just the two of us in the pickup truck. But it turned out our friend Tom was there the whole way as well. Time and time again on that long, hot drive, we popped a tape of Petty’s recent hit album, “Full Moon Fever” into the cassette player.
A good 20 years before “The Walking Dead” would make zombies all the rage, my son gravitated to “Zombie Zoo.” I had a soft spot for “Alright for Now.” We both loved “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
Little did I know at the time that road trips – and really, travel of all kinds – would become a lifelong thing for my son and me. Or that, from that week forward, whenever I heard the opening chords to “Free Fallin,’” I would be back in my old truck, feeling the warm breezes and the sweet bonds of motherhood.
So, when my son – the same age now as I was that long-ago summer – bought tickets for a Tom Petty concert as an early Mother’s Day gift to me while I was visiting in his new hometown of Austin, Texas, it couldn’t have been more meaningful.