I have them stashed in a dresser drawer, sitting on my backseat, slipped into a visor organizer, cataloged on my ipod. My world is wrought with albums not of the shrink-wrapped, shiny artworked, and $16.99 kind.

Playlists, mix cds, or, as we called them when I was but a wee lass, mix tapes.

For every season of our lives we hold a soundtrack, perhaps Radiohead on repeat or No Doubt on loud. Dixie Chicks with our favorite chicks and Our Song for our first date. The strains are heard and we are tumbled back into fun and tumultuous and difficult and fear and oh sweet memories.

I have a stack of mix albums, "Music for Chicas in Guatemala," "Good Songs," "My Favs for My Fav," "Road-Tripping I, II," "TN Mix," "Remember, Remember Too, Remember Again,"and more--mementos of times and friends and relationships. Some tell stories with the music, some make it up as they move along, some walk me through my life like a wax museum--strange likenesses of a life that really was and now just isn't.

Each one breaks off a piece of the artist, the real artist--the one who coupled these songs together, Latin near Jazz, followed by Folk and Instrumental, finished with Worship and Soul--gives himself when he makes a mix album. It's not just favorite tunes, it's a part of us, pieced together in our apartness by music.

So when I leave one stage of my life and head to another, and a friend slips a CD into my pocket, my luggage, my hand, I hold to it tightly. It is the soundtrack, sometimes the only way I know that I lived, really lived and laughed and loved and then left a place I called home.

They are a timeline of my life.

February 2008