Sometimes I think I’m a little crazy. Or maybe I ought to call myself intense instead of crazy? Or maybe it’s that I’m just really, really insightful and confident enough in what I see to name it aloud. I’m not sure which description fits me best, but there they all are, typed out here in this space. Owning it’s the first step, and all that, right?
I’m thinking about this today because the television is off and I’m playing my music on the wireless stereo system John rigged up throughout our house. Certainly we listen to as much Raffi as the next family with young children (maybe even more, come to think of it, as that man is kind of a household hero around here), but I’ll say this about my kids: Sometimes I think they enjoy listening to my music as much as I do.
We were coming home from swim lessons one afternoon last week when I caught Jack’s reflection in my rearview mirror. “Float On” by Modest Mouse was playing on the satellite radio in my station wagon and Jack was mouthing the song’s lyrics as he stared himself down and made crazy, rocker dude faces in time with the song’s beat. Awesome.
I’m not lying when I tell you that Archie knows every song on my iPod by title and artist. Seriously, he does. It’s really too bad that television game show Name That Tune doesn’t air anymore because I’m pretty sure Archie could sweep that one clean. Right now the song on my favorite playlist that elicits the most enthusiastic response from Archie is Metric’s “Gold Guns Girls.” Just knowing that makes you want to set up a play date with Archie and your child right this very second, doesn’t it?
The other day Kit asked me to play “that song by the people who like to bite your neck.” We played an abbreviated game of twenty questions, Kit and I did, until I figured out that Kit wanted to hear “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” by Vampire Weekend. When Kit hears the da-dum, da-dum, da-da-dum guitar rhythm at the beginning of the song she starts this skip-jump step thing that she’ll do back and forth across our family room floor until the music stops. Her dance is rather interpretive, I think, and all sorts of cute and I wouldn’t be telling you the whole story if I didn’t mention that there’s a part of me that finds her affinity for this song all sorts of funny for all kinds of reasons Kit won’t even begin to understand for at least ten more years.
So back to the crazy thing. I’ve always believed that what sort of music you listen to says a lot about who you are. To me, your preference in music is a reflection of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re going. I just read a review of a recent scientific study that first confirms my belief, and then goes on to assert that musical preference may be a more reliable way of quickly assessing someone than the other sorts of things that normally form our first impressions. The author of the article ultimately describes music as “a unique road into the soul.”
When I was in college I ate every meal in the Great Hall, the main student dining room in Peirce Hall. The campus feminists complained that the walk from the heavy wooden doors at one end of the dining room down the central aisle to the servery at the other end was too much like a catwalk. It didn’t help either, the feminists said, that the fraternity boys sitting at the long oak tables on either side of the room always watched the women walk the gauntlet, those boys’ heads turning to follow their gazes as they followed you.
But in truth everyone knew all that gawking went both ways, and that we girls watched the boys as much as they watched us. My friends and I used to talk about what each other’s theme song would be if such a thing existed, about what particular song should play when a specific person took to the catwalk. “Here comes Anne Roberts!” my girlfriend Lacie liked to shout. “Cue up ‘Brick House!’” Please.
During more complex conversations my friends and I would take that discussion a step further. “If your life were made into a movie, what song would play in the background to mark your pivotal moment?” we’d ask each other over open bottles of beer.
I still think about that question every now and then. In fact, I thought about it yesterday morning at the gym when I was hanging onto the pull-up bar and Filter’s “Hey Man Nice Shot” started playing over the sound system. I laughed a little and remarked to Brian, who was standing on the ground beside me, that this song was my life’s theme song. What I said amused Brian and he laughed, too. Wholeheartedly. Story of my life.
Where am I going with this? This very second my kids and I are listening to Jeff Buckley sing “Hallelujah.” It’s a Leonard Cohen song, I know, but Jeff Buckley covers it as if it’s an homage to sex and right now I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to listen to this with my kids in the same room. Whether or not I switch over to another song before this one’s finished, I’m sure that later today I’ll play “11th Dimension,” and “Little Lion Man,” and “First We Take Manhattan,” and “Old White Lincoln,” and “No You Girls,” and “Fed Up,” and “You Will Leave a Mark,” and “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” and “1901,” and “Substitution,” and “Quiet Little Voices,” and “Sweet Disposition,” and “Lions,” and “The High Road,” and a hundred more songs. Because each of these songs? They mean something to me. I have a story about why I like each of them, and its all those stories that makes me want to share the songs with my kids. If I do so, they’ll at least know me better and at best they’ll come to share with me the stories in my heart.
Whether or not Archie, Kit and Jack come to know my heart remains to be seen, but by reading this you now know that I have eclectic taste in music, which must mean that there’s something complex going on inside my head. And since everyone knows that complex is just a nice word used to describe crazy people… well, there you have it.
I wonder, though, if my making them listen to this stuff means that my kids’ll grow up crazy, too? ‘Cause, you know, kids learn what they live and all that stuff.
I really hope so.