Sometimes I look at my children, who are growing up so quickly right before my eyes, and I am at a loss as to what of importance I have in me to pass down to them. What? My love of books? My inner Drama Queen? My freckles? My Loud Talk/Loud Laugh gene? My charming wit and sparkling personality? My humilty? The list goes on and on... Then, this weekend, in the most roundabout way possible, I discovered one of the most powerful aspects of myself that I have to pass down to my progeny.
You see, nostalgia struck this weekend. One minute I'm downloading Sway by the Perishers, and the next thing I know I'm downloading music I remember listening to as I spent rainy afternoons in my parents' bedroom thumbing through my parents' old 45's, jamming out to Purple People Eater, Charlie Brown, Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop, Shoop Shoop Song, My Boyfriend's Back, Rescue Me, oh, and this really catchy song about sitting in my a la-la waiting for my ya-ya (uh-huh... uh-huh...), amongst others.
So I went online to iTunes and legally downloaded Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford. I know, right? Me? Obtaining music on the up-and-up? All legal-like and shizz? Recognizing that creative works online are protected by copyright law? Not contributing to the illegal music trade which is destroying artistic creativity and innovation, eliminating jobs, and more than likely bankrolling organized crime?! I KNOW!
(Whatever. You'd think these people would be flattered that someone wants to listen to their stupid music, but noooooo. Money money money! That's all any of these guys-- singers, musicians, managers, producers-- care about! I mean, honestly. It's not as if I couldn't do what I used to do when I was a teenager... which was to keep a cassette at the ready in my boombox and push RECORD whenever a song I liked came on the airwaves? Oh, the mixed tapes I used to make! At absolutely no cost to myself whatsoever! Well, except for the cassette, of course, but did you know that with a little tape and a tad of ingenuity, you can tape the new songs over old albums that you totally don't want anymore anyway?... Anyhoos, no one was coming after me then, confiscating my Tainted Love Breakup Tunes or Hair Band Heaven Mix, no sir! Now it's all about the money. Freaking selfish bastards.)
Um, okay. I had a point when I began...
Ah, yes! Sixteen Tons! Of course, of course... So I dragged my kiddos into my bedroom and forced them listen to the song. I watched delightedly as they fell in love with it, Ernie's impromptu snaps setting a tempo like a coal-mining crew axing into a brick-solid wall, effectively sucking them into the hammer-like rhythm of the song. Alli snapped in time (fine, almost in time), Hannah bopped her head, TD attempted to look bored, but failed miserably-- and as I was swept back to a time when I would giggle madly as my dad would bring this song on home: "I OWE my SOOOOOOUUUUUUU-OOUUUU-OOOUUULLL!... to the company store..." I realized that I was passing on a history. A legacy of music, if you will.
Which... scary thought.
This realization brought to mind my fourth grade end-of-the-year party, when my absolute favoritest teacher EVER gave us permission to bring in some of our own music to play for the class. Stoked, I rushed home and told my mother I simply HAD to bring her album-- The New Christy Minstrels' Sing and Play Cowboys and Indians -- to school or I would absolutely DIE. So the next day, armed with my uber-cool album and a sure knowledge of my Cool Factor totally skyrocketing as soon as my classmates heard the opening strains of this kickass song called Navajo, I rushed to the front of the line, bypassing The Police, Air Supply, a few Blondies, Irene Cara (Fame, naturally), and-- if I recall correctly-- one Captain and Tenille album.
Needless to say, my classmates did not appreciate the music as much as I thought they would and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. I mean, this was GOOD STUFF, right? What the hell was wrong with these people?! But it strikes me now that they did not enjoy my music for many of the same reasons that my daughter's 2nd grade classmates probably wouldn't appreciate the phenomenal music from The Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables. Perhaps my classmates' mothers hadn't yet instilled in them a love for the The New Christy Minstrels' minstrely goodness by playing Lily Langtree or Betsy From Pike-- or, oooooh! this super funny song called Three Wheels on My Wagon!-- over and over again.
And perhaps their dads didn't stand at the door "singing" (note my use of sarcastic quote marks) Nelson Eddy as he'd leave the house for work: "I'll find you in the mornin' sun and when the night is new... I'll be looking at the moon... but I'll be seeing... (*deep breath* *mom joins in*) YOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!" And my mom would be all, "Oh , JIM," and we'd laugh and shout, "Kiss her, Daddy!" and my mom would blush and be all, "Oh, you! Go to work!" and we were like, "Aww!"
Although, come to think of it, I don't much like Nelson Eddy. Okay, I don't even KNOW Nelson Eddy. But I love that memory! See how that works? It's tricky. But that is beside the point.
The point is that as I sat there playing music for my children, I began to imagine my daughters or son sitting down with their own children, playing my music, perhaps songs from U2's The Joshua Tree album or The Offspring's hit single Pretty Fly for a White Guy, music that perhaps my grandchildren would take to THEIR fourth-grade end-of-the-year parties. And maybe my kids will teach their kids to Snake or Axl Rose, and maybe, just maybe!, they'll even gather 'round the karaoke machine and belt out the oldies from their great-grandma's and grandpa's generation, perhaps Sixteen Tons or Rescue Me, and they will all laugh at how crazy life was back in the day, and maybe they will videotape it and send it to me, and TGIM and I will laugh and probably bust a tear or two due to the whole Empty Nest Syndrome, and, oh, how glorious that will be.
Yes! I thought. I shall pass down the music!
Of course, I began to panic. I mean, the pressure I suddenly felt to produce the quintessential 21st century mixed CD-- representative of the most influential music from 2001 through today-- was crushing, but I calmed myself with the knowledge that, hey, I'm totally up to the challenge. I watch American Idol. I pay attention to the music of Veronica Mars. I'm hip to the pop culture, fo' rizzle, my shizzle.
Gosh. I tell you what... my kids are SO lucky to have me.
In truth, however, around the seventh time I played Sixteen Tons the nostalgia faded with the final strains of the flute and clarinet. I came to my senses and realized that my children, though influenced by my taste in music now, will grow into teenagers and will develop their own tastes, just as I eventually did, and they will call my music stupid and tell me I'm way out of touch and be all, "Ooooh, my music is so much cooler than yours, Momma! Ooooh!"
I must admit to a few moments of frustration and despair. Because if not my love of good music, what?
Then Natasha Bedingfield's sassy song Unwritten came on my iPod and I was immediately struck-- struck, I say!-- by the words:
I am unwritten,
Can't read my mind
I'm just beginning
The pen's in my hand
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words
That you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.
Good LORD! That was it! The part of myself I absolutely MUST pass down to my children! Because if nothing else, I want to them to learn from me how to take life as it comes-- grab it by the balls, if they must-- and freaking OWN it.
I can DO that. I just know it.
And the fact that I am instilling this lesson in their minds not only by example, but covertly, as we dance and laugh and sing this song together while cooking dinner, cleaning our rooms, even folding the laundry?
Well, that's just gravy.
- wordgirl commented:
My parents listened to The New Christy Minstrels, but I hated them. (the minstrels..not my parents). Friday was our music "Free Play" day and I remember when a good buddy brought some Iron Butterfly and another song called DOA. I'm sure the music teacher was horrified.
- » 4/03/2006 1:20 PM
- Misty commented:
ahh..I LOVE that song- after Ayla did it on American Idol (and i knew the real version was better) i downloaded it to my computer and added it to my workout cd..it's the words really that move me, not a fast workout song--but it makes me walk faster anyway--every time..LOVE THOSE WORDS..
- » 4/03/2006 2:21 PM
- Circus Kelli commented:
I heart you, Cat. Lots.
- » 4/03/2006 2:38 PM
Awww...Cat, you are such a good mommma. Treasure these days. I'm already old and listen to dumb music. Well, sometimes, according to my oldest. And I now say stupid mom things like, "How can you even listen to that? It all just sounds like a bunch of screaming." How did this happen?
- » 4/03/2006 3:11 PM
- WILLIAM commented:
I think the improtance that you could pass down is your sense of humor. That would be awesome.
- » 4/03/2006 6:47 PM
- Nilbo commented:
Ah, what a lovely bit of music you've written here, my darlin'. I loved the New Christy Mistrels, and it made the parody of them in the movie "A Mighty Wind" so much more fun ...
- » 4/03/2006 7:10 PM
- Amy commented:
Yeah, I LOVE Sixteen Tons, but I don't expect Evan to appreciate it. Oh well, today' music IS really really good. Love ya!
- » 4/03/2006 8:25 PM
- Cat commented:
wordgirl: Too bad someone didn't bring in Devo's Whip It! Because that? THAT?! Would have been awesome.
And I remember being horribly disappointed the first time I heard the NCM sing songs that WEREN'T on the Cowboys and Indians album, 'cuz hello? Boring? It just wasn't the SAME! What happened to Lilly Langtree?! Huh?! Beautiful Miss Lilly? The songs are fun for kids... Okay, and for me. Nostalgia! It's my drug!
misty: Sing it, sistah!
circus kelli: Heart ya back, CK. Lots.
di: This from a girl who listened to Billy Idol and the Scorpions? Oooh, and Def Leppard?! Hmmm... what DID happen? ;)
Your oldest cracks me up. Luckily mine hasn't figured out yet how completely uncool I am...
william: Actually, I'm pretty sure that was a genetic thing because my kids are INSANELY funny. Well, to me anyway. And Loud Laughers! All of 'em! :)
nilbo: That movie KILLED, no? Seriously. But since I LIVED in a small town in AZ where people watching Waiting for Guffman would look at each other and say, "I don't get it. Why is that funny?", it is still my favorite mockumentary. See, my town put on a play every year that was almost as ludicrous, I kid you not, and woe unto any who disparaged their serious dramatic efforts. The first time I saw it I burst into giggles and people STARED. Hey! In my defense, I totally thought it was a farce! I was mistaken.
amy: My kids actually really liked it, but, you know, they're weird? They also like my old Smothers' Brothers albums, so there you go. Hey! Those dudes are FUNNY!
My kids are SO doomed. Thanks a whole LOT, Mom and Dad! GOSH!
- » 4/04/2006 4:52 AM
- Cristin in NJ commented:
Will you be ny music momma? I have watched it over and over, but I STILL cannot do your snake, but your music taste rocks.
- » 4/04/2006 8:13 AM
What about your love of Red Sovine and his daughters singing "It'll grow back" and "I love you - more than I love my dog..."?
- » 4/04/2006 8:42 AM
- Cat commented:
"I luv to climb up in the trees, but Ah'd rather climb upon yer knees, cuz Daddy I luv yew more!"
Oh, good times, sis. Good times... (Don't even THINK I don't know that's you, Jen!)
- » 4/04/2006 8:47 AM
- Odd Mix commented:
I remember listening to a lot of music like Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Kingston Trio, and Chet Atkins - most of it on 8-track tapes riding with my two sisters and the dog in the back seat of a Datsun B210. I still like that music despite the emotional scarring.
Your kids are so lucky to have you for a Momma.
- » 4/04/2006 10:30 AM
- kalki commented:
Those kids are darn lucky to have you, Cat. And not just because they will be THE hit of every school dance when they break out the Snakin'.
My Nilbo! It's so good to see you here, dude!
- » 4/04/2006 11:35 AM
Apparently all those really cool bands from our high school years are now not so cool to this younger generation. Even though many are still alive and making CDs. I have to tell you...my son went to the Warped Tour last summer and Billy Idol was there, but he was so drunk he kept falling off the stage. Wish I'd been there.
p.s. You know the song 1985? Yeah, well that's me now I guess.
- » 4/04/2006 1:20 PM
- Amy commented:
Wow, this was great. Mixed tapes!
I used to call mine "Amy's Album" and "Ain't It Amy" and put on Abracadabra and Another One Bites The Dust and any other song that had an A word in it.
You will pass on your life loving ways to them Cat. That and so very much more.
- » 4/06/2006 6:01 AM
- Cat commented:
"Ain't it Amy"?!
Man oh man. I jist LUV you, Amy!
- » 4/06/2006 6:58 AM