The Bed and Breakfast was only partially full. It was the beginning of January and not many people wanted to be at the beach in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, at that time of year. I’d been a guest at The Ocean View a couple of times before—once for a month when I wrote the first draft of a memoir, and then again when I was finishing a song called “More.” I knew the staff pretty well by then.

At teatime on that Sunday afternoon, one of the other guests introduced himself as Max, a violinist, new to America from Hungary. He’d heard I was a singer. He asked me the best way to find a gig in the U.S. I said, “The only thing I can suggest is to produce your own shows.” I’d just finished a string of private house concerts on the east coast and liked them so much that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever want to sing in a public venue again. People listened, there was homemade food, a place to stay with a decent bed, and I was paid too. On top of that, I got new fans through old friends and we all had a good time. Max was interested, so I said, “Ya know, we could even do a concert right here in this hotel.” The innkeeper was within earshot and said, “I love it! Let’s do it.” Within the hour, Xeroxed copies of a simple poster were taped to the doors of the hotel buildings. Registered guests and their friends were invited for wine and a concert, and it was free. Everyone was asked to bring a story of their own to share.

The following night, 13 people assembled around an out-of-tune piano in the main living room. Among them, a round and bubbly woman named Cathy who told us about the time her father had been offered two camels for her when they were visiting Egypt years before. Max, the violinist, was Cathy’s fiancé. They’d met on a cruise ship the previous summer. She was sailing. He was in the orchestra. He played three energetic Gypsy tunes for us, and spoke a little Hungarian, too.

The innkeeper, Angela, told us she was an immigrant from Poland and that her first job in the United States was cleaning offices at night on the upper floors of a skyscraper in New York City. She’d convinced herself that the odd-looking boxes on all the desks were cameras that followed her while she worked to make sure she did her job right. She dressed for those cameras, hoping one of the security guards who was watching her would make a good match. She was horrified when an employee who had stayed late one night jammed a pencil into the center of the camera to sharpen it, dashing all of her dreams.

There was a carpenter, too. He wanted to be a dancer so he improvised a ballet without any music. He and his boyfriend were celebrating their first night out.

And there was a State Trooper named Roger who told us he was in the doghouse. His wife had given him two months to rearrange his priorities.

All these stories were told one at a time, like campers around a campfire. We didn’t know one another when we started, but like people who meet on a plane and will never see each other again, we knew each other well by the end of the evening.

My contribution was to sing “More,” a song I’d finished in Ocean Grove years before. I wanted to see how people I didn’t know would react to it.

“I don’t usually write love songs,” I told them, “but this is a song about loving someone so much that there aren’t words to describe it.”

The room was dark with just a few leftover holiday candles flickering on the side tables. Christmas lights on the outside of the doors and windows gave the room a gentle glow. It felt like a movie set, like something dramatic and exceptional was happening. There was romance and nostalgia in the air.

“I didn’t know how to describe the love I felt so I made a list of things I had loved most in my life. Most were memories, not things at all. I thought if I sang about all of them and said I love these things but I love you even more, that my point would be made.”

The room was quiet as I started to play. At the end of the night as everyone was getting ready to leave, Roger, the state trooper whose wife was out of sorts, came over and said, “I wish I could write lyrics like yours. I’d send them to my wife.” His eyes were bright. He smiled as though he knew how corny that sounded.

“You can give her mine if you want. Just tell her you wrote them.”

We both laughed knowing that wasn’t the answer. When I thought about it later I wondered if what he really meant to say was that he wished he loved his wife as much as I loved the person I was singing to. I didn’t tell him about Forrest, the son I’d lost five years earlier.

When we were kids, our family went to New Hampshire for the summer where my grandparents had a house on Lake Winnepesaukee. Every morning, Moompah, my grandfather, would go out to the dock at sunrise and slide into the water for a swim. If I were lucky enough to be up by then, I’d go with him. I loved the quiet, the light browns and yellows of the sun reflecting off the lake. More than anything I loved the feel of the water on my skin—cold, silky, endless.

As I got older, I swam alone at night. I’d sneak out to the dock after everyone had gone to bed, undress, and drop down the ladder to the lake. My senses on those nights were on high alert. There were fish and slime on the bottom. Any splash I made could be heard anywhere in the harbor. There were stars or no stars. Clouds or no clouds. And if a full moon was hanging low in the sky, I could swim in the silver light it cast across the water.

This place in New Hampshire that I called Long Lake in my lyric, still appears regularly in my dreams. It’s a place of safety, comfort, and pleasure.

I love you more than the moonlight on Long Lake
Or her water on my skin

When Forrest was born, Peter and I would read to him at night then I’d nurse him as he fell asleep. I ended every day by saying, “I love you, Forrest, more than the sky. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I will always love you.” Before he got sick, my words were a reminder to him, permission for him, to go out and explore his life with my unconditional support. After cancer took hold, the words had new meaning. Saying, “No matter where you go” no longer meant a place on Earth like Manhattan or Boise. It meant somewhere unknown. It meant the hereafter, wherever that was. They were hard words to say every night but I needed to say them. I needed to hope that they could still mean Boise, while accepting the fact that they probably meant the hereafter. It was a nightly reminder of the beauty and mystery of life and death, which at the time I was obsessed with. I still say these words every now and then, hoping somehow Forrest can hear me.

For years afterwards I could see the Hudson Valley as the sun rose every morning through the windows at the foot of our bed: pinks, blues, oranges, gold, and purple or gray. The colors and the sureness of the sun’s ascent were a daily comfort in Forrest’s absence.

As was sleep.

Sleep was a time when I might see Forrest again. His visits in my dreams were rare, and often stressful. He might be dying again, he might be lost where I couldn’t find him or in a place I couldn’t reach, but at least I could see him. I could feel him. I couldn’t wait for sleep. And I was glad that the terror of waiting for his death was over.

I love you more than the sky as daylight breaks
From the darkness that was night
Glorious night!

My parents still live in the house I grew up in. It’s a three-story, white cube with brown trim and a big stone porch on the front. When we were kids, ours was the house that other kids in our neighborhood hung out in. The basement was perfect for hide-n-seek, playing darts, and the occasional slumber party. There was a fridge down there with 7-ounce bottles of Coke that we could share if mom said it was okay.

My parents’ room was on the third floor under the eaves. The six of us—five girls and the youngest, a boy—slept on the second floor in groups of two until Billy got his own room. On Christmas mornings, we were up at first light, anxious to see what Santa had delivered. But there were rules: no going downstairs until everyone was up, and no peeking. My parents, having been up late, were slow to get moving, so when the tension got too great, we’d scurry up the stairs and pile up on top of them until they’d give in. When they finally got moving, we’d all go back down to the very last stair we were allowed to sit on, the one just before the turn in the stair that led to the living room where all the presents were. Dad would always have to brush his teeth first making the wait unbearable, until finally, all the world was magic and wrapping paper.

I love you more than the joy of Christmas morning
And the lights up on the tree

One of those Christmases I got my first “big” present. These were presents that were special—maybe a bike or a radio. In my case, it was a Zenith compact stereo with a
turntable that could hold five LPs on a spindle, and speakers that folded into the middle like the Barbie dollhouse I got at the church fair. Having my own stereo was a big deal for me. Carole King had come out with Tapestry, James Taylor with Sweet Baby James, and Three Dog Night with Joy to the World—all albums I still have.

Two of my older sisters had gone to college by then so I had my own room and could listen to whatever I wanted for as long as I wanted. Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” and Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” were the first two songs I learned by heart. On the rare occasion when I was the only one home, I’d pack up the stereo and take it down to the living room where we had a small grand piano. I’d try to play along with the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road.” I imagined singing with them and being just like them. It’s still one of my favorite songs ever.

I never told anyone about any of that. I’m not sure why. If I had, my mother would have suggested lessons. It’s as if I liked the thrill of my secret more than the playing. It was mine. No one could tamper with it or trespass on it if they didn’t know how much I loved it. It took ten years for those longings to express themselves; ten more until I was making my own albums and coloring in the details of my dreams.

I love you more than the colors of the night
When I close my eyes and my dreams come to life

One of my favorite memories is of Forrest standing at the window in our bedroom looking out at the falling snow. He was bouncing on his toes, smiling, “Look, Mommy, it’s snowing!” It had been falling all night and everything was white. His tiny fingers were on the windowsill. He could hardly wait to get outside. Remembering him in that moment filled me with the same kind of joy. I wanted the bridge of my song to capture that memory, as well as the miracle that Forrest had ever been here at all.

When winter comes and water forms in sheets and icicles
One snowflake falling
A miracle in flight
And when the morning comes and all is white
I love you more

There was water everywhere in the song I was writing—tears, rain, icicles, snow, water from the lake on my skin—but I hadn’t seen any of it until my second trip to Ocean Grove, five years before we did our living room concert at The Ocean View.

I’d gone to the beach to find the words to the chorus of my new song. A lyric, I hoped, would pull the song together. The sun was out. The beach was empty. It was October, the month I like best by the ocean. It was warm enough to go barefoot with my pants rolled up. I walked where the sand was hard, at the place where the waves turn around and go back to the ocean. This was a place where I always felt whole and good, where any
sadness or worries I had went away. I felt sure that while I was there the words would come, and they did.

The sound of waves and sand beneath my feet
As far as my eyes will ever see
I love you more

The song was done.


More than the moonlight on Long Lake
or her water on my skin
I love you more than the sky as daylight breaks
from the darkness that was night
glorious night!

The sound of waves and sand beneath my feet
As far as my eyes will ever see

I love you more than the joy of Christmas morning
and the lights up on the tree
I love you more than the colors of the night
when I close my eyes and my dreams come to life

In pouring rain with pools around my feet
and soft summer rain that cools the heat
I love you more

When winter comes
and water forms in sheets and icicles
one snowflake falling
a miracle in flight
and when the morning comes and all is white
I love you more

With ocean waves and sand beneath my feet
In all that I see
You are to me
I love you more

Hear Bar sing “More,”:

Bar Scott is a songwriter and performer. She has recorded seven albums of original songs and published a memoir, The Present Giver. Her stories have appeared in Stories of Music, Volumes 1 and 2 (Timbre Press, 2015, 2017), Three Minus One, (She Writes Press, 2014) and Bacopa Literary Review (2017).