I caught Jake whistling this riff “Every-body-was-Kung-Fu Fighting…” What chopsocky disco-virus has polluted my son’s brain? Yes, my twelve year-old knows every note to the 1974 Carl Douglas hit. How is this possible? We have a dedicated sonic soundtrack piped in daily from KEXP. The radio station hums 24-7 inside our home. The station is our northwest arbiter of musical taste. If you walk by our house on any given day you will inevitably hear the distant interior echo of alt-country or Moroccan rap or urban Rockabilly music. ‘70’s disco, is rarely heard. I am puzzled.
I’ve started to realize that a parent’s media and art choices can define a kid. Jake was in Spanish class and there was an active discussion about the word “concesión” or in English, “grant”. Some kids were trying to get a handle on the usage of the word as a noun or a verb. Jake piped up from the back to remind everyone that the word can also be someone’s name. “Like Cary Grant, you know, the movie star that starred in ‘Philadelphia Story’ with Katherine Hepburn.” Later Jake told me exasperated “Dad, I couldn’t believe it. All the kids in the class had blank faces. I was like, come on, how do you not know who Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn are???”
When kids are toddlers, parents are told to encourage their child to move to the beat of music and dance with them. My wife was dedicated to a Mommy’s Group that taught pre-verbal munchkins simple children’s songs such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” How the hell did Jake pick up Thelonius Monk? I nearly swerved of the road one Saturday afternoon when a mixed playlist I had made shuttled to “Round Midnight.” “Hey Dad, is that Thelonius Monk?” How did you know that? I asked. “I don’t know, NPR?” Amazing. Our kid’s brains are like a vast memory chip that is always on. Our parental squawk box is etching permanently into our kid’s brains. Sort of scary and wonderful if you think about it.
Then it dawns on me that it all makes sense. Jake has his mother’s knack for Instant-Recall. My wife can hear 3 bars of a song and tell you who is singing, what song it is, when it was first recorded and possibly the name of the producer and the label. As a dyslexic, I’m happy when I can remember my name. When Jake was four we stood in line near the register at Starbucks and a track play lightly in the background. “Daddy, that sounds like Lucinda Williams.” “No honey, I don’t think so.” When I turned to order from the lip-pierced barista’s mouth was agape – “Sir, whoa, that is Lucinda.” I guess Jake has my wife’s genes.
As I write this, I hear my son getting ready for school. It is the same morning fire drill, every day: lunches struggle to be made and homework is soon to be not forgotten. Jake goes into the bathroom to brush his hair. The door slowly drifts closed and I hear … “Don’t stop believin’ — Hold on to that feelin’.” I stop. Journey? Really? Journey.