Song Stories: “You’ll Be In My Heart,” by Phil Collins

What Music Speaks, part seven

Tracy Lynne Oliver
Aug 29, 2019 · 4 min read
Illustration by Louisa Bertman

“You’ll Be In My Heart,” Phil Collins, Tarzan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

WeWe buy the VHS for Disney’s animated feature, Tarzan, in late 1999. I’m twenty-seven, he’s three.

One of the feature songs, “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins (that will go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song), becomes the song of you and of me. Of us; my second born child, my first born son. You’re three.

“Come stop your crying, it will be all right”

Even before this song came out, I called you, “my heart,” a boy-child I never thought I could love as much as I did my girl-child — my first-born, my complete joy, my entire heart. A mother’s worry when her belly grows big for the second time is that there will be nothing for the next. How could a love you would willingly die for be given again without it diluting, or being somehow lesser, fraudulent? When your gender was revealed, my worries came once more. Years of being barraged by my brothers’ endless torments and tortures taught me — girls, safe; boys, bad. Would I be able to find the love for you that you would need? That I, a mother, was supposed to give?

“For one so small you seem so strong,

my arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm”

But, you…You captured. All of me. An uncanny connection I could not explain. How you would come to me when I needed it most. Crawling into my lap, covering me with kisses and I-love-you-mommy’s whenever I was in a darkness. Whenever I needed grounding. The timing of your affection, so eerie, it elevated from mere coincidence. You knew. For one who had not yet mastered speech, you had somehow already mastered compassion and empathy.

“This bond between us can’t be broken,

I will be here,

don’t you cry”

TTwenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, doing my best to navigate the breadwinning stress of a high-pressure job, a long commute and motherhood. Tossing and turning with the dread of daylight where I’d have to return to it, yet again. How, in that bleak sleeplessness, spinning with life-worries, I would leave my bed for yours, slipping beside you while you slept, sharing your warmth as my own, inhaling your smell, sweet with sleep, stroking the smooth of your still-new skin. Your toddler’s body would calm me. Fitting your curled frame into the place where I once held you safe inside me, my thoughts would still, my worries would wither, and sleep would finally find me.

Symbiosis.

“’Cause you’ll be in my heart…

From this day on

Now and forever more.”

A song about a mother’s love for a son at a time when her son was the sweetest. A song heard every time the play button on the VCR was pressed, again and again, because children never tire of what brings them joy. You, small and brown, dancing around on the living room carpet while it played on the television. My own little Tarzan. Those lyrics connecting me to you, imprinted so deeply, that whenever I hear this song, some twenty years later, I am instantly brought to tears.

II 51 now and you’re twenty-three. Unless I get into my car, drive seventeen miles, break into your apartment and embarrass you in front of your two roommates, I can no longer seek the comfort of your bed to find the peace I need when worries turn and sleep struggles to come. Instead, I wait for the man of you. Will you be free from friends and work this weekend and come by for dinner or a movie or both? Will you ask if I am free to do something? Will you text me first? How long will you let me embrace you before writhing free with an irritated “Okay, Mom?” I try to remember that I am less needed by you now that you are grown and that it is a good thing; to have raised children who can take on the world without having to clasp onto my hand. But, as any mother does, I lament the days when I was your everything. How your sun rose and set with me, your mommy. How mine still does, and always will, with you.

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most…

Tracy Lynne Oliver

Written by

I am a writer with a cool website: https://www.tracylynneoliver.com/

Gay Mag

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most interesting and thoughtful cultural criticism to be found on the Web. Our first quarterly is coming in June 2019. We value deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy.

Tracy Lynne Oliver

Written by

I am a writer with a cool website: https://www.tracylynneoliver.com/

Gay Mag

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most interesting and thoughtful cultural criticism to be found on the Web. Our first quarterly is coming in June 2019. We value deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy.

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