When I was thirteen years old, both of my parents gave me something. Something that was theirs. Well, not exactly theirs, but something that they had both decided was a part of who they each were, and was worth passing down to me. Music.
Now, I was never deprived before becoming a teenager. In fact, my father is a musician, both a performer and a teacher, and my childhood was filled with the hum of his acoustic, his frustration and dedication, his unswerving need to constantly be writing, recording, and performing music. My mother (and his muse, in the beginning of his career) was his biggest supporter. She attended every set he played, singing along to his songs. She stayed up late, drinking wine, dancing. She loved his music. It was something they could agree on.
I always assumed they listened to the same albums growing up; anything rock and roll, raspy and assertive, several performers and instruments on one stage. Think Rush (a band my American father loved). Think The Rolling Stones. I never imagined that my parents could have different taste in anything, music especially.
In each home we lived in, my father always had his own room. Tim’s Room. The room my siblings and I weren’t allowed to go in unless invited to. As a young and imaginative child, I used to think if I touched the doorknob my hand would ignite. I was never worried about being burned, I just knew if he saw me rolling around trying to put the fire out, he would know I went in there. In that room was his life; his music, the music he worshipped, his guitars, his equipment. I lived for the nights we stayed up past our bedtime in that room. My mom, my brother and sister, my father, and I, dancing and singing along to music. Demanding my parents to play songs we barely knew the lyrics, nevermind the titles of. I used to pretend my dad’s guitar stand was a microphone. “Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right..” and usually before I could finish, my brother would grab his play guitar and shout, “ALRIGHT, STOP! HAMMERTIME!” and then the melt down would begin. Witching hour was over. We were shooed off to bed.
I always felt so left out. I was sad I didn’t get to stay up late and watch my dad make magic happen on his precious ES-335. I could hear it some nights, but I was just outside somewhere. Sometimes my father sat back and listened to others. There was a man somewhere, lone with a harmonica or a guy screaming about something that made my cheeks burn. I remember a song that felt like a lullabye about measuring a summer’s day, but I had to close my eyes and try not to hear it. I lost my ticket. I was underage. This elite club didn’t accept crybabies. But really, I was spoiled. I wasn’t appreciating the moments as they were happening. It really wouldn’t be until I had hit youth, that I would fully grasp how lucky I was (still am) to have parents who included me as much as they did.
My mom was different. She loved to sing along. I remember the soundtracks of our road trips to South Carolina, Florida, Ontario, before we moved here. There was Tracy, and Phil, and too much Cyndi. There was Bowie and Fleetwood Mac. Simon and Garfunkel. And we sang and sang, all of us, until the rows of cedar and highway cliffs made us car sick and we had nowhere to put our nausea but to sleep. We woke up at our destination, cheering and anxious to get everything unpacked. But I remember dreaming a song, something about a map of Canada. A northern star. Touching souls. Mama, let me just ask you…
But the question could wait. I had heard that song before. Many times. It was in my blood like..
When I was 13, my parents each gave me something. My mother handed me three records and a cassette. Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of The Canyon”, Carole King’s, “Tapestry”, and Carly Simon’s, “No Secrets”. The tape was a Joni Mitchell mix, complete with that song I always loved, “A Case of You.”
That same week, in the mail, I received a package from my father. Every Bob Dylan album ever recorded. With a simple message, “If this isn’t what you’re looking for, we will keep looking.”
When I was 13 years old, both my parents gave me something. It was something that they had given me years before, but that I would not fully appreciate until I was old enough, or ready to. I think maybe that was the gift. Not these albums, but the desire to always hear more. To listen to music and have a memory, someone to share it with. And who better than those who were pioneers in my experience of it?
It’s been over a decade now since I started to truly appreciate all of the music I grew up with, but I’ve also started to weed through some it and make my own little collection to pass on.
I’m expecting another package in the mail. From my father. He messaged me and said, “Expect some blues. I really think you’ll love these tapes”.
Well, Dad, if I remember correctly, I sure will.