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Music: A Family Tradition

Music: A Family Tradition

Music is ubiquitous in my house.

It’s a tradition.

My mom layered our walls with Poison posters when I was five; we had cats named after members of Hanoi Rocks and mice after Guns N’ Roses’ players. Later, she taught me about goth and punk rock. We first heard Radiohead’s “Creep” when she drove me to school.  My dad? He taught me to headbang to Iron Maiden, to respect Michael Schenker, and how to pantomime rock star moves while pretending to air jamming to Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vasoline.” He blasted Slayer while I played Barbies. Needless to say, music is ingrained into my most important memories.

Fast forward to myself as a parent. I believe music is a crucial parenting tool. It’s a much-needed distraction for kids (unless, of course, my daughter thinks she has to stare at the turntable/iPod/speaker for full experience); it’s a means to exercise (go ahead, pick up that heavy toddler and dance and see if you don’t get a little winded!) Music is innate. I saw that when my daughter bopped her head and shook her shoulders without any instruction or conditioning. She felt the music on her own. Now, she has an entire arsenal of moves. There's the fist bump to X and the Beastie Boys, the sway to Billie Holiday, the reaching to David Bowie, and a budding shadow dancing to accompany anything threaded with synthesizers—particularly ‘80s synth.

Today, while we cleaned up breakfast and swept up mounds of dog fur, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” played from the iPod’s shuffle playlist. Tallulah transitioned from bouncy moves to a tranquil expression and subtle rocking. She was transfixed. Watching her movements, a memory ran inside my head. It was my great-grandmother’s funeral, in a small beige room with Patsy Cline playing on a little boom box. I sat with my grandparent’s—on hard and uncomfortable chairs—and we all listened. Someone whispered their own recollections, about how my great-grandparents would dance to Patsy in the living room—often with whiskey on my great-grandfather’s breath. He had died when I was about the same age as Tallulah. My only connection to him is a series of photos from our first meeting. I’m wearing a frilly red and white dress; his hair is mussed but he smiles in the way everyone does when they first meet a baby.

That photo allows him to be tangible. One day I’ll show this photo to Tallulah and pass on the stories I’ve heard about our Grandpa McGough, and tell her what I remember about my great-grandmother. She was the one who facilitated Thanksgivings—even into her 80s—and had perfectly set platinum hair. In her closet was a boxed Bingo game with translucent pink markers to cover the letters when they were called.

In the meantime, Tallulah will cultivate her own connection to family. Through Patsy. We’re listening to “Walking After Midnight” next.