Our daughter’s music — Katy Perry, Run-D.M.C. — and our music, especially when we play hard hip hop, make our son cringe. He has specific and limited music tastes. He will tolerate classical, and jazz without singing, but rarely has he said he likes a type of music, and never would he seek any music out.
One day we went to the mall, and as I power walked to whatever store we were destined for, in my hurry to get the shopping over with, our son strolled behind me and said, “I like this music.”
I stopped to listen. It was some horrible generic Muzak whose blandness offended me. I scrunched up my face, one nostril raised, and said, “You do?”
“Yeah,” he said, with his contented Buddha smile. “It’s quiet. And sad.”
He was 10 at the time. And he liked quiet and sad music.
He didn’t seek out or buy Muzak after that, thankfully, but the moment was enlightening to me. A little window into our son’s sensibilities: he did not care about music, as evidenced by his appreciation for Muzak. It just wasn’t his thing.
So when he started requesting a song in the car recently – “Can you play the whale song, Mom? – I was happy to play it for him. Over. And over. Again.
“What is it you like about this song, buddy?” I asked him after the fifth or sixth request.
“I like that it tells a story,” he said. And he shrugged. “I don’t know. I just like it.”
“Oh, well maybe you’ll like the rest of this band’s songs then. Most of their songs tell stories.”
“What’s the name of the band?”
“The Decemberists,” I said. “You want to listen to another of their songs?”
Since then, we have put 39 Decemberists songs on his tablet for him. I’ll be folding laundry in the living room and hear, drifting down the stairs,
We are two mariners
Our ship’s sole survivors
In this belly of a whale*
He listens while he does his homework. He listens while he curls up and reads. He listens while he lays in bed and stares at the ceiling, doing nothing at all besides absorbing the stories, and the music.
*From “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” by The Decemberists.
For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page.