We'll be Together in "A Matter of Time"


Family legend says that my grandparents’ grandparents came to America from Czechoslovakia. They had a large family, and they ran a pub in their village. It must have been difficult to make ends meet. My great-great grandfather came to America to look for new opportunities, but he came alone. My great-great grandmother stayed at home, she managed the pub and took care of their children. Only after my great-great grandfather had worked and saved enough did he bring the rest of the family to America.

I wonder what my great-great grandparents talked about the night before my great-great grandfather left his home and family behind. What was that conversation like? What did they hope for? What were they afraid of? What did they quietly whisper to each other that last night, after the children were in bed?

“Speak softly, don’t wake the baby.”

“A Matter of Time,” off Los Lobos’ masterful 1984 major label debut How Will the Wolf Survive begins with a universal plaintive, quiet plea. The baby is asleep. It’s time to talk. Keep your voice down. This is a story we can all understand.

Los Lobos is a band of immigrants. Four Mexican-Americans and a Jewish-American. Throughout Los Lobos’ 44 year career, they have been singing songs about the hopes, pain, dreams and disappointments of people coming to America to seek a better life. Just like their parents did. Just like their grandparents did.

For the first few words of the song, we hear only lead guitarist David Hidalgo’s sweet, lonesome voice. As the rest of the lyric continues, the band gently comes in. The husband speaks first.

“Speak softly, don’t wake the baby
Come and hold me once more
Before I have to leave
Because there’s a lot of work out there
Everything will be fine
And I’ll send for you baby
Just a matter of time.”

We talk of building a wall. We talk of controlling crime and immigration. We talk of America being for Americans. But we forget about the families. We forget that people around the world only want a good life for their families and themselves. They want to work. They don’t want to have to stand above their baby’s crib one night, saying goodbye to their spouse. They just want to be happy. Now the wife speaks.

“Our life, the only thing we know
Come and tell me once more
Before you have to go
There’s a better world out there
Though it don’t feel right
Will it be like I hope
Just a matter of time.”

And then there’s optimism. There must be optimism. Without optimism, we would not leave our home for a country we have not been to yet, for a job we have not found yet, for a life we have not made for ourselves. The music changes tempo and picks up a bit. The song sounds brighter, happier.

“And I hope it’s all it seems
Not another empty dream
There’s a time for you and me
In a place living happily.”

This song is for every man. Every woman. Every culture, and every history. “A Matter of Time” is for every person who has made that unimaginably difficult decision to leave their home, the only place they have ever known so they can provide a better life for themselves and their family. And only if the entire family believes, only if the entire family is willing to make the necessary sacrifices and take the necessary chances will they even have a chance. The wife speaks again.

“Walk quietly, don’t make a sound
Believe in what you’re doing
I know we can’t be wrong
Don’t worry about us here
It will be alright
And we’ll be there with you
Just a matter of time.”

I guess I will never know exactly what my great-great grandparents said to each other all those decades ago, but because of this one perfect song, I think I have an idea.

“A Matter of Time”
Written by David Hidalgo and Louis Perez
Recorded by Los Lobos

Released June 15, 1984

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