By Anya Kopinja & Grace Yang
Graphic by Denise Chan
Magic 106.7 & Grace
Rather than Drops of Jupiter, a blend of humidity and car air-conditioning seeped into my hair and skin.
The family car, a third-generation Toyota Sienna, carried me through the world. Newton and Boston were encapsulated in a single frame of the right-side backseat window; they became the only cities I grew to know with intense familiarity.
Magic 106.7, a local radio station, always serenely played from the speaker next to me. These memories are slightly muddled, reflective of the car’s messy interior, but I could never forget Billy Joel’s crooning.
He daydreams through his voice. His yearning for love is articulated through words I mouthed as if they were my own story of affection, requited or otherwise — an undeniable step up from my own childish crushes at the time. His melodies gradually melted into velvety hums.
Similar melancholic voices preceded and succeeded his on the radio: The Police, Journey, James Blunt and Train. They all sang about comforting an unnamed girl, the woman without another and love’s ascendancy.
Restricted to the backseat, I was often left alone to stare out the window and lip-sync to songs I adored. Although, once spit began to escape my parents’ arguing mouths and eyes dampened, I was expected to stay still or offer an opinion favoring one over the other.
The music would slowly drown out. I’d lean closer to the speakers in an effort to preserve the love-filled world described by Magic’s singers and momentarily escape the household I was unwillingly fastened to tighter than my seatbelt.
Similarly, throughout the isolation enforced by the pandemic, my friends and I vied for a sacred connection to someone else. Someone euphoric, someone to prioritize over ourselves. We wanted that unbreakable bond akin to first love, even if it was superficial. Escapism was all we honestly needed.
A few years later, my sister — now living more than a thousand miles away — would send my brother and me a playlist titled, “I’m seven years old and we’re driving to Market Basket,” comprised of songs from Magic 106.7.
We’d long stopped going to Market Basket, and the car began to play Kiss 108 instead, but the musical love confessions never left my mind.
Yet, I’m no longer that same young girl living in a lonely world. The midnight train of blind yearning is long gone, too. Even so, I still reach for those songs and the ties they have to not only childhood, but also love.
Harry Potter & Anya
I was seven-years-old when my uncle gifted me J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for my birthday. I can still remember the feeling of holding that copy for the first time, its crisp pages and fresh smell. The story itself was a magical adventure, with dragons, talking paintings and sweets beyond a second grader’s wildest dreams.
Today, that same well-loved copy sits on my bookshelf, its spine cracked, pages dog-eared and marginal annotations scribbled in hot pink gel pen — reminders of the days when my biggest problem was choosing a friend to play with at recess.
I was easily influenced by the story and its characters, particularly by Hermione Granger, Harry’s smart, overachieving best friend who was at the top of her class, a favorite of most teachers and a frequent visitor of the library. On top of it all, she was able to maintain a close friend group and help save the world. I was in awe of how one person could do so much and be so successful.
I resolved to be exactly like her.
But eventually, my dedication turned into perfectionism. When I reached middle school, I needed to get an A on every assignment so badly that I would often stay up until nearly midnight to achieve it. I would panic over the smallest inadequacies and request to redo assignments until my score was finally satisfactory.
Hermione was an unrealistic example of what it means to be a good student because in real life, there are no time-turners to let you take several classes at once.
I lived for the academic validation that came with getting A’s. Teachers would praise my work and use it as an example for the class; my peers would come up to me asking for extra help and call me smart.
But when I didn’t understand something, I felt like I couldn’t ask for help because it would go against the expectations others had for me. Hermione never asked others for help and was still the best in her class. Why couldn’t I be more like her?
I wish I could go back and tell my little seven-year-old self that success isn’t synonymous with perfection, that grades really are just numbers and that test scores wouldn’t matter 10 years down the line. To enjoy the magic of muggle life, I must stop comparing myself to words on a page. As much as I admire Hermione, her story disappears when I close the book. My story opens at the close.