Once when our mother called
She had a voice of last year's cough
We passed around the phone
Sharing a word about Oregon
When my turn came, I was ashamed
When my turn came, I was ashamed

Once when we moved away
She came to Romulus for a day
Her Chevrolet broke down
We prayed it'd never be fixed or found
We touched her hair, we touched her hair
We touched her hair, we touched her hair

When she had her last child
Once when she had some boyfriends, some wild
She moved away quite far
Our grandpa bought us a new VCR
We watched it all night, we grew up in spite of it
We watched it all night, we grew up in spite of it

We saw her once last fall
Our grandpa died in a hospital gown
She didn't seem to care
She smoked in her room and colored her hair
And I was ashamed, I was ashamed of her
I was ashamed, I was ashamed of her
I was ashamed, I was ashamed of her
I was ashamed of her


Lyrics submitted by etcetera_whatever

Romulus song meanings
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68 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentThis song isn't just about some kid.
    It's about him, this is a biographical song.
    I don't remember where I read this, maybe it was a transcript of a radio interview or something.
    Sufjan and his Brother moved in with their grandparents while their mother went out to Oregon for a guy, his Grandpa bought them a VCR to try and get their mind off of it, and even though they were enveloped in the VCR and that's all they wanted to do was watch it, they still grew up
    Then when their Mother finally drove back, because their Grandfather was dying, her crappy chevrolet broke down, and even though he had done all of that for them
    She still tried to repress her feelings, and just acted like she didn't care
    and it was at that point Sufjan lost all respect for his mother
    Brighteyesboyon February 07, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI wrote my college application essay about Romulus, it pulled me through some really tough times. But there is nothing we can really say about it that Sufjan hasn't already said.
    EvillovEon October 26, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commentthe line "she smoked in her room and colored her hair" has always stood out to me, because that seems to me like something one would do to ease heartache. i can imagine their mother: sitting barefoot in the window, her just-wrinsed hair still dripping dye down her back; her eyes bloodshot from crying at the realization that she hardly knows her children.
    lifewasperfecton May 02, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt's also really touching that the lyrics sound as if a little kid is telling the story. He mentions the kinds of details that a child would remember, the kind that are seemingly random but usually say a lot about what the event really meant to them. It's cute but also very sad. Also, i agree about the VCR line, it's heartbreaking.
    Miss Miseryon January 25, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti hate how much i can relate to this song.
    grrsawnon July 05, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYeah, this song is definitely about having an absent mother who seems to not care about her children. He and his siblings loved her so much, and felt almost unworthy of her presence, thus he is ashamed to even talk to her on the phone. When her car breaks down they get to see her and they play with her hair. Their grandpa raises them because their mother moves away. The grandpa buys them a vcr as a sort of distraction, and replacement for their absent mother. The next time they see her is when their grandpa dies. Then, they are old enough to see that their mother really wasnt as good of a person as they had thought she was. She sits and smokes in her room, and doesnt seem to care that their grandpa just died. She colored her hair, possibly a metaphor for the fact that she changed who she was, or who the children thought she was. The children end up being ashamed of her because they realize that she wasn't as good of a person as they thought she was.
    I also find it interesting how this relates to the line in "The Seer's Tower''
    "Oh my mother, she betrayed us, but our father loved and bathed us."
    Sufjan seems to be making a special point of absent mothers, possibly relating to an experience of someone he knows...
    Sorry about how long this turned out...
    cutie_carnivoreon February 16, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with /lifewasperfect/, but could it be that their mother turned grey when she realized that her father died and she would never see him again and how stupid she was to waste her life for pleasures (constantly changing boyfriends, homes etc) instead of being together with her family, and the boy took grey hair for colored one?
    z0mb1ekgdon May 24, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love how he refers to his grandfather as grandpa. Most people once they grow up, call their grandparents "grandfather", but he still calls him grandpa which adds a heartbreaking innocence to the song.
    joeydangerron May 28, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI completely relate to this song. The manner in which it is narrated, each stanza by a child grown older and older. He explains the apparent observations he experienced, by doesn't know what it means because he is so overwhelmed with pain and confusion, and just wants his mom to come back. My mom left us when I was ten, and though I genuinely appreciate this song, it doesn't completely portray how bad it is, at least not for me. Extremely well written song.
    zinkleon February 22, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit always bugs me when reviewers mention this song as being about "being ashamed of a girl." It's clearly about his (or someone's) absent and seemingly disinterested mother. The verse about the vcr absolutely kills me every time. "We watched it all night, but grew up in spite of it."
    deliriumtriggeron October 16, 2004   Link

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