I’m up to Day 13 of the “Find the ‘awesome’ in your family!” Challenge and I’ve been asked to remember a lovely moment from my own childhood.
Most of the lovely moments I could think of all seemed to revolve around music. The first one that sprung randomly to mind was the hours I would spend as a teenager in the granny flat at the back of our house, playing endless games of pool on my own and listening to the radio for hours, moving the dial up and down the FM band searching for songs I liked. I could do that all day.
Being on my own, being able to listen to music for hours on end without distraction. To immerse myself in it, absorb every lyric, memorise every chord change. I miss that so much now that I am a parent.
Another favourite memory was getting my first ever Sony cassette walkman when I was nine years old, the most wonderful shade of pink and the size of a house brick. I got it duty free when we went on the P&O cruise ship Oriana, and I bought my first ever albums at the same time, pirate cassettes from Fiji. She’s So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper and True Blue by Madonna. It would be the start of a lifelong love affair with music and a long, devoted journey to becoming a bona-fide music snob.
It means nothing to be a music snob these days. The internet has made it so easy to find and listen to music for free, and the ability to hear almost any song in the world on a whim is just a few keystrokes away. Everyone is a collector now, everyone is eclectic. Being a music snob used to require a significant investment of time, money and effort, and was a mostly solitary affair. It was a cult-like fanaticism which compelled you to spend hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars in second hand music stores single-mindedly flicking through racks of CDs and stacks of vinyl. It meant making all-day trips into the city so you could go to independent stores like Red Eye and Waterfront Records. It meant waiting months – sometimes years – to finally spot a much-coveted, hard-to-find album in a second hand shop.
It meant you had to read a lot of music press; domestic magazines like Juice and Rolling Stone, local street press like Drum Media and Revolver, music fanzines and overseas magazines like Uncut, Mojo, Q, Select, NME and Spin. It meant you had to take a gamble buying records by non-mainstream artists you had only ever read about because there was no other way to hear them.
It meant wasting a lot of money on disappointing releases (Pere Ubu), but the pay-off for finding that truly superlative album (The Apartments) was the thing that kept you going, like digging for diamonds in canyons of dirt. It meant going to lots of spectacularly average pub gigs for pedestrian local bands, and a handful of truly sublime ones.
It meant main-lining coffee so you were able to stay up late and watch Rage on Friday and Saturday nights, to see the videos from your favourite indie artists, discover cool new music and awesome old stuff when your favourite bands were guest programmers. One of my favourite songs ever is something I stumbled upon late one night, many years ago. I still remember that moment vividly, for some reason, when much more important memories have since faded into obscurity.
I’ve had thousands of my albums hidden away in storage ever since having my kids three and a half years ago, because CDs seem to have been purpose-built to entertain destructive toddlers, but not built to withstand them. I miss them terribly and it’s very symbolic of my shifting priorities and dislocated sense of identity since becoming a parent, the fact that I have literally “packed away” a lot of my old self, that I have set aside something very important to me in service of my children. I’d always dreamed of sharing music with my kids from a very young age. My kids weren’t going to listen to Hi-5, they were going to listen to The Hold Steady. Instead of The Wiggles we’d be bugging out to Wesley Willis singing “I Whupped Batman’s Ass”.
My youngest son’s deafness has put an end to that, because to create an inclusive environment enabling him to hear and to facilitate speech and language development we need to create a home for him that has minimal background noise as often as possible. When he gets older I’m sure we will be able to make time for music, but for now we live in a mostly silent house. I struggle with that a bit, not just the loss of something I love, but the loss of a dream too.
My oldest kid broke both my stereo and my turntable when he was a toddler and that is deeply symbolic too, as is the fact that I’ve yet to replace them because I can’t see the point just yet while I have another 17 month old at maximum capacity for breaking shit. I have some of my music collection loaded up on the computer but it’s not the same. I like going through stacks of CDs, picking out things on impulse, reading sleeve notes. I like having them around me, a much-loved collection I’ve spent a big chunk of my life building, a physical reminder of the person I used to be. I really look forward to the day I get them – and myself – back.
That day will be awesome.
Previous post in the series DAY TWELVE: Choose one activity that you usually do in the morning and do it the night before.
Next post in the series DAY FOURTEEN: Choose one moment when you stop what you’re doing and really listen to your child.