Sitting in the Backseat: A Ride Down Memory Lane

I had a wonderful childhood. I realize that’s not everyone’s story but for me, being a kid was the best. My parents created and maintained a safe, warm, and loving home for our family. Everything wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough most of the time. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” was the foundation of our home life and everything was built upon that truth. My childhood was filled with songs, stories, games, and joy. Always joy. That is a testament to my parents and their deep devotion to their creator and Lord.

My mom is musically talented. She can sing. She can play the piano. She used those talents throughout her life – in various ministries. (I can’t claim she passed those talents to her boys. Perhaps at one time, I could sing well enough to get by, but I doubt anyone would want to hear me sing any solos in church today.) My dad, on the other hand, is not musically gifted at all, though that does not lessen his love of music in the least. Both my mom and my dad valued music. It was important to them, so it became important to us. They cultivated a home that was filled with melody, harmony, and rhythm. All three sons became insatiable consumers of music. Some might even say we became obsessed with it.

Sitting in the backseat…

I have vivid memories of sitting in the backseat of our family van, listening to music. Sometimes, it was whatever my parents were listening to. Their music ranged from Southern Gospel to Adult Contemporary to Praise and Worship. At other times, once I had a listening device of my own, I was in full control of the tunes that would grace my ears. My tastes leaned heavily into the Christian Rock world. There is very little, at any point of my life, that impacted me more than those times. I’m likely romanticizing things; I am prone to bouts of hyperbole and nostalgia. Yet, I don’t think this is that, not at its very roots. I wasn’t escaping from the harsh world around me, though I did find refuge in the songs I listened to. And I wasn’t attempting to isolate and find solitude, though I had need of both of those as well, from time to time.

These long drives, surrounded by my family, the windows down to let in the slightly cooler Panamanian air, soaking up song after song, were moments of unbridled imagination, uninhibited worship, and unimaginable splendor. Those moments were more than nostalgia. More than a 44-year-old man reminiscing and romanticizing the past. I reveled in those moments. The long drives didn’t matter as much. The noise, confusion, and fears of growing up didn’t matter as much either.

A song brings it back

Last year, NEEDTOBREATHE surprised their fans by releasing a new album they had recorded in secret. Into the Mystery is full of great songs. One of those songs, the one that really took me back to my childhood and is partially responsible for this little ride down memory lane is “Sittin’ in the Backseat”. So many lines in this song speak directly to my experience.

Sitting in the back-seat
Slipping down a long street
I can feel the wind in my hair
Summer's coming through the trees
Sun is running over me
Shadows dancing everywhere

While NEEDTOBREATHE’s song is more about the carefree feelings of childhood, the song itself feels specifically crafted to capture every emotion I felt during those drives. Tranquil, relaxed, and happy.

I mentioned feeling worshipful a little earlier. I meant that. I grew up in a Christian home. Faith was integral to how my parents raised me. They were missionaries in Panama, and we were in church every time the doors were open. I knew and experienced worship many times throughout my childhood. Those moments were not confined to the church building. I felt closer to God listening to The Talley’s sing “He is Here” than I would have imagined possible. When I listened to Petra’s “You are My Rock” I knew strong arms surrounded me and kept me safe, and I praised God for that.

Beyond the spiritual implications, there was the simple and pure love of music that weaved in and out of all these memories. I needed music. I still do. A world without music is a world without hope or beauty. I felt that in my bones when I was a child, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it. I still struggle with articulating why I feel so connected to and inspired by music. Sitting in the backseat, reveling in the sheer weight and beauty, music was a balm for my soul. An enveloping embrace for my heart.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Maybe I’m alone here. I doubt that but it’s always possible. Perhaps you can’t connect with this. That’s fine. I’m sorry you can’t, but it’s fine. If you do get what I’m saying. If you have distinct memories of just this sort of thing, there aren’t many better things in the world, are there? I truly hope you have your own “sitting in the backseat” memories. I hope you are creating new memories even today. Maybe they look a little different since you likely aren’t sitting in the backseat anymore. But please don’t take these moments for granted. Soak up the music. Take some time to roll the windows down, crank up the volume, and drive. Let the wind tussle your hair, if you still have any. Revel in the music of your heart. We all need those moments of unbridled imagination, uninhibited worship, and unimaginable splendor. Don’t ever feel like you’ve outgrown the need for them. Find your “sitting in the backseat” moments.

Phill Lytle
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Phill Lytle

Phill Lytle loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, his family, his friends, his church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Whiteheart, Band of Brothers, Thai food, the Nashville Predators, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation...

2 thoughts on “Sitting in the Backseat: A Ride Down Memory Lane

  • July 1, 2022 at 9:12 am

    “Precious memories, how they linger
    How they ever flood my soul…” Special memories for me, too. I can remember some times when as a boy I was a rider in the back seat.

  • July 4, 2022 at 9:51 am

    Somebody commented to me yesterday at church how they enjoyed your article.


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