My oldest brother Mark is one of my favorite people with whom to share and compare music. There have been numerous times through the years when Mark has called me to share a song that he really likes, or I have called him for the same reason. Several times, these phone calls have turned into hour-long (or longer) conversations which include listening to songs together over the phone. These conversations with my big brother are some of the most cherished moments of my life!
During one of these phone calls, Mark asked me if I had ever heard of Fernando Ortega. I had not. He mentioned two or three of his favorite Fernando Ortega songs, one of which is entitled, “If You Were Mine”. I fired up Napster on my laptop and listened to the song.
Often, when I listen to a song for the first time, especially if it is a song that someone has recommended to me, I listen very intently to the words in order to understand the song’s meaning. As I listened to “If You Were Mine” for the first time, I began to get a picture in my mind of the singer’s reason for singing the song. Here is the first verse:
When my heart is troubled and I am weighed down,
Then I like to think of how this lonesome world would be
If I could see your face, or hold you in my arms
If you were mine, if you were mine.
This seems to be a standard love song expressing unrequited love. The instrumentation is simple and beautiful, and even the artist’s voice seems to express an empty feeling of longing for his love to be recognized and reciprocated. Fairly standard stuff, yet beautifully presented. Then comes the second verse:
If you had a bad dream I would jump inside it,
And I would fight for you with all the strength that I could find.
I would lead you home by your tiny hand
If you were mine, if you were mine.
OK, now it starts to get interesting. The part about jumping into your dream and fighting for you could still fit with the notion of romantic love. But then he says, “I would lead you home by your tiny hand.” This changes everything! Now it is obvious that the object of the singer’s affection is a child – a child who is deeply loved but who, for some reason, cannot be held close. “If you were mine, if you were mine.” What’s going on here? What is he talking about?
I couldn’t stand it any more. I had to find out! So I Googled “fernando ortega if you were mine” and came across a website with the transcription of an interview with Fernando Ortega. Near the end of the interview is the following quote from Ortega about this song.
There is a song on that same record called “If You Were Mine,” which was written after my wife Margee and I adopted a newborn baby girl. We lost her when the birth mother changed her mind.
My heart sank and tears began to flow. Now I understood.
Not only did the meaning of the song and the source of the artist’s bitter longing suddenly become clear. I also understood why this song struck a chord with my brother Mark.
Several years ago, Mark and Christie tried to adopt a girl from Russia. They absolutely fell in love with this sweet girl, and she even started calling Christie “Mama Christie”. It looked as though everything was going to work out. Then the girl’s grandmother reneged and the adoption process came to an abrupt halt. Mark and Christie’s dreams were dashed and their hearts broken.
Now when I listen to the song, it is not Fernando Ortega’s voice I hear; it is my brother Mark’s voice as he sings to the daughter who was almost his. “If you were mine, if you were mine.” My heart breaks for him and Christie because I know that there will always be an empty longing in their hearts, and a constant wondering, “What if she had been ours?”
Because this song has touched me so deeply and has such an incredibly powerful message, even though it is a sad song, I have added it to my list of favorite songs.
- Ozard, Dwight. “the Fernando Ortega Interview.” A Lover’s Quarrel webzine.
http://www.dwightozard.com/lq-article.asp?id=69 (accessed November 12, 2011).