A few years ago, I started noticing something that made me laugh.

I was sitting in a coffee shop in midmorning, doing my best not to eavesdrop. But some people are loud talkers, bless their hearts. The group across from me was being entertained by one such person. He was telling a story as I pretended to focus on my laptop.

“I can’t start my day until I’ve had my coffee,” he said.

I gave a little laugh, then caught it, not wanting to give myself away. The group was too entranced by the storyteller to notice. And I realized I had just stumbled across a fascinating little feature of language: the taking of something that has an impact on us, and treating it as if we possess it. To call it “mine.”

The implications behind the sentence “I can’t start my day until I’ve had my coffee,” are hilarious. Would another person’s coffee not have the same effect? Do you own a coffee farm, from which you’re sure you’ll pull your morning coffee every day until you die? Does it stop being your coffee in 30 minutes, when it passes through you?

Applied to coffee, this principal is silly.

But think about it elsewhere, and it becomes profound.

“I loved my neighborhood growing up.”

There’s something more at stake in a sentence like that. There’s real relationship, real vulnerability, a real sense of loyalty and closeness. It wasn’t just any neighborhood, after all. Sure, I didn’t own it, but it was, in a very meaningful sense, mine. When things have a deep impact on us – when they make up a part of who we are – they become, truly, ours. Not as if we own them, but more as if they own us.

Here’s why I bring it up: I think the best art offers the same thing. It presents something that deeply moves us, and then invites us to call it our own.

Ben Shive is a songwriter, composer, and producer who spends most of his time out of the spotlight, contributing to other artists’ work. He hasn’t released his own music in a long time. But he’s finally stepping back into his artist shoes, first with “Magic Kingdom”, and now with “Here It Was.”

A piano plays a theme-like intro, then settles.

Split-level on the great plains
Flip flop in the grass stains
Bike pedal to the big bang
Bird seed in the truck bed
Kick turn from a bunkbed
Sky view in the sunset
Card table and face paint
Just Dance in the basement

The song is bursting with specifics: a split-level house with a yard, a truck with a messy cargo, mornings and evenings brimming with energy and color, children and families and games. These are Ben’s memories, precise and peculiar. You and I were not there for them.

But that matters little, because we are here for them (not in the “I’m soooo here for it” sense; I mean actually here). Ben’s descriptions are too vivid for us not to share in his reverie. After one listen, his nostalgia has become ours.

Can you tell me where the days went
They don’t seem like ghosts to me
They cling so close to me

The memories have boiled to a fever pitch, so much so that they don’t even feel like memories: they’re being experienced anew as they’re sung, and we’re invited to join. The music mimics the feeling: lines have been delivered quickly, riffs are scattered, patterns are just barely coming into focus. And then, with a final shimmer, the chorus hits:

It could’ve been anywhere
But here it was
It could’ve been anyone
Oh, but it was us
And I don’t know where we’re going
But we’ll take our love

The song soars, zooms out, shows the full tapestry of which the specific memories were single threads. This is the point: that any life could’ve happened to anyone. But grace is found in specificity, and meaning is made by the people to whom things happen.

We are because of what’s ours.

Songs like this are rare. It takes great craft to awaken a sense of ownership in us, to invite us to share the burden of another’s nostalgia. This isn’t a song that you’ll hear once and say “that was nice.” This is a song that will have you calling up old friends, booking plane tickets, looking through photo albums. It’s a reminder that the things that have meant the most to us are, in a poignant way, truly ours – and because they are ours, they are meant to be shared.