I laughed because I identified with the absurdity and the realization that I think EXACTLY the same way. What Penelope is exposed to will shape her life. You may read this and think “He’s not going to let her listen to stuff like the Ramones or the Clash, is he?” Yes, I am. Why? Because I grew up listening to them and many other great bands. The more I reflect on my childhood the more I believe it was music that kept me sane.
When I was a kid there was no telling what would be playing in the house. If my mother or brother was in charge of the turntable it could have been Journey’s “Escape” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. It could have been KISS (my brother had most of their albums) or Steely Dan (my dad had all of them). For a few years I listened to whatever my brother listened to, which meant 80’s hair metal. I had exposure to the Beatles, thanks to the “Blue” greatest hits collection (1967 – 1970) and the 45 for “Ticket to Ride”. My freshman year in high school I heard the Smith’s for the first time and everything changed. Hearing “How Soon Is Now?” for the first time was like discovering a new world.
“Some mopey British pop band changed your life?” you ask.
Like every kid I was figuring out who I was. I didn’t know what I believed, I only had my instincts. The music I discovered in high school gave expression to what I was feeling. If I felt jubilant the Jellyfish’s “Bellybutton” matched my elation. If I wanted to feel charged, the Ramones would do the trick. If I felt like a cold rainy day, I’d listen to the Sunday’s “Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic”. Music was the palate of my heart and I had the master set of paints. To this day I pull out music from my youth for the familiarity and comfort. It’s like a time machine for my thoughts and emotions.
Penelope will discover all of this. I expect she’ll ask questions like “Why do you love Elvis Costello so much?”. She may ask “How can you like the Clash, Joni Mitchell, and Diana Krall at the same time?” A fair question but one with an answer that I will give if asked. It would be disingenuous for me to say I don’t care if Penelope doesn’t love music. I hope she does, and I hope she gets as much if not more from it as I do. What matters most to me is that she finds something to be passionate about.
While mulling over this post I realized music is the only consistent and unbroken pleasure I’ve had from childhood until now. We didn’t take many pictures when I was younger. My parents didn’t mark my height on the wall. But I still listen to some of the music I grew up with. Some. I don’t listen to “Pac-Man Fever” anymore, though I do have it.
There was a quote from “Chariots of Fire” that stuck with me. Olympic runner Eric Liddel says
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
I want her to discover that thing that puts her in touch with another realm, provides comfort during tumultuous times, and brings unspeakable joy. If it is music, maybe we’ll find ourselves sitting down and pulling out a record or clicking on some MP3 files together. Penelope will share some new treasure or I can tell her about my memories of the Cascade’s single “Rhythm of the Rain”.
In the meantime I’ll take Fred Armisen’s advice from the skit:
“You start small with Harry Nillson.”