[Abby's Road] Teach Your Children

Two weeks ago, while perusing the stacks at my favorite Baltimore record shop, I picked up a few used albums:

As incongruent as the entirety of this list appears, an item glaringly stands out. One is absolutely not like the others. Neil Young and company? Was it his recent performance at the Olympic closing ceremonies that prompted my purchase? Sounds reasonable, but no, I think it was my father. Actually, I know it was my father.

At this point it’s quite difficult not to go on at length about my awesomely fantastic dad. Indulge me for a moment: he listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Antonio Vivaldi and music from the Northern Exposure television series on absurdly gigantic headphones after work while sitting in an orange armchair. He patiently taught me how to cast a fishing rod in our backyard in preparation for 1979 PA trout season. He was also taken from our Big Blue Marble much too soon (and suddenly) for everyone he was acquainted with to deal with emotionally, yours truly in particular. That said, what I really want to highlight is what we all were (and still are) and what most of us will have someday (fingers crossed), if we don’t already: kids.

I took a road trip to visit some old friends (thanks, Facebook!) the weekend I purchased the records in Baltimore. Between the four friends with whom I reunited (two are married to each other) they have four children ranging from 1 year to 5 years old.  On Saturday I was greeted by a fashionable 5-year-old with a face-melting rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on her Barbie electric guitar. While I didn’t meet either child of another friend on Saturday evening, I met up with him at a venue/watering hole we used to frequent back in the day to see the illustrious Man Man. He arrived alone, though before the music started he absolutely beamed when he spoke of his daughters and lovely wife. It was explained to me that his oldest (Lil, age 3) saw her first show at the exact club in which we were standing – The Ting Tings. Of course, he responsibly provided full ear coverage to tame the savage sound. Leon (Lil’s dad, who incidentally lists Sandi Patty as his first live show as a tot – in a church, even) soon corrected himself and remarked that The Ting Tings gig was her first club show and her first show in general was Mos Def and Musiq at a West Philly block party. Sunday brunch rounded out the weekend at yet another friendly spot, the home of the couple I mentioned. Although their son, also 3, was a bit shy and into his Legos, it was explained that he dances like crazy whenever The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is on the turntable.

Why do I mention all of this parent and kid stuff? I guess it’s because I find it heartwarming that amid news stories of helicopter parents and, on the flip side, parents who just don’t give a damn, parental units – my friends in particular – are providing a life rich in music for their children, much like the life I had growing up. The Arts are important. I wonder if something called “Music Class” exists in public elementary schools these days. I hope so. Are kids playing Tempo Tag in the classroom like I did back in the seventies?

When I returned home and listened to the record that reminded me so much of my dad, I found that I remembered every lyric, including the “ooohs” and “ahhs”. Until recently, I never voluntarily listened to it. I remembered the words merely from them ringing out in the background noise of my childhood.  Amazing. I’m not saying that all children who listen to music with their parents are going to evolve into piano virtuosos or rock stars, the latter of which we all know can be more of a detriment to the family name than a blessing (coughcourtneylovecough). I am neither. What I am is pretty well adjusted. I think, anyway. I use music as meditation to decompress after a hard day’s work (like you-know-who once did) as well as a means to a crazy night out. There are few (legal) things one can say the same about. Could I have found music on my own without the help of my dad? Sure, but my collection wouldn’t be nearly as rich and varied as it is. Thanks, dad.  I can bet that Lil thanks Leon as well, even if she hasn’t told him yet.

L.V.R.  1945- 1994 – you taught me well.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

2 comments to [Abby’s Road] Teach Your Children

  • j.r.

    i still get chills when i hear U2 “where the streets have no name”….one of the most life changing memories i have (aqua converse and all) thanks dad.

  • After reading this, the momma of the guitar wielding child I mentioned wrote me a note:

    “I always tell Sophia her first concert was the Rev Horton Heat. I went to see them right before she was born. She does love herself some music. And she loves so many kinds of music which i love. It’s funny when I’m singing Taylor Swift or Kidz Bop or Lady Gaga or The Ting Tings all in one road trip. That is our great life… “