Sunday, July 18, 2004

My daughter and I meet the Beatles

My two daughters, G and C, ages 9 and 6 respectively, live far from me--by car, it's a hard day's drive of between 14 and 15 hours. But I call them at least once a week, and I send them e-card as well, with love from me to them, and I go to visit them about 4 times a year. We do what we can to reduce the emotional distance before G's oncoming puberty (and C's as well) begin to crowd me out of their lives a bit.
The calls can be difficult emotionally: at times, afterward, they make me feel far away from them, and at times, I'm thrilled for the rest of the day because of the call. Yesterday was one of those days when they didn't seem at all far away.
I was talking to G about my visit to them in a couple of weeks--I'll drive to their house and then they and I will go to Austin to visit my mother for about a week--and we were talking about things that she and C might want to bring along to make the trip and the stay in Austin more fun. When we got to the music she wanted to bring along, she mentioned that she has been listening to the Beatles' recent greatest-hits compilation, 1 (scroll down to see the set list), and that she really liked it. I asked her what her favorite song was, and she told me, "I don't know, but it's #6 on the CD." I asked her to sing it, and she started singing "A Hard Day's Night." I immediately started singing along with her, and we both started to laugh when we finished the first verse. I then told her a story my uncle tells about when I was about 2 years old in 1964: I was a late-talker (indeed, I might not have said my first words ("Where there's 'moke, there's fire.") when, my uncle reports, he heard me walking around his mother's/my grandmother's house chanting a 3-note, descending-down-the-scale "Yeah, yeah, yeah" and he could not for the life of him figure out what cult I had become a member of . . . until he heard "She Loves You" on the radio and immediately understood. G thought that story was funny.
It's interesting to me that G likes the earlier Beatles more; reading the critics, the impression I get is that the Beatles' early albums are the ones about which there is the least disagreement as to their quality. Dissention (though muted, to be sure) starts to appear with Sgt. Pepper. If there's a pop music canon, there's no question that those singles from 1960-1965 are somewhere near its core.
G is a budding artiste: she loves to read and writes her own stories; she paints and draws remarkably well for her age; and she has been taking violin lessons for about a year now. Especially after I moved away from them, I saw the arts as a way to remain connected to both my children. I also know that sometimes children use art--especially their choice of music--to try to assert their independence from their parents and establish connections with their peers. That hasn't happened so far with my girls; their tastes are mostly their mother's (mainstream 60's and 70's pop and some contemporary country), though they do like the Putumayo cds I've given them. C is beginning to show a disturbing preference for light, Hilary Duff-style pop, but she IS only 6. Hope springs eternal: she's just discovered that she likes broccoli. At any rate, I know that as they grow older, they will discover new musical likes and loves, and that is perfectly fine with me. Indeed, musical omnivore that I am, I look forward to learning from them. But that physical space between us is vast, and other spaces will soon open wider. Our mutual loves will help to keep them spanned. In the meantime, I have a surprise for them: one night while I'm with them, we'll be watching A Hard Day's Night on DVD.

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