J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Notes From Underground - #42:
Mother's Day


Musical Moments with My Mother, Martha:

1. My young childhood is filled with moments of my mother singing. Whether it was what she sang when she came to wake me up in the morning for school ("Good morning to you, good morning to you...") or when we were in the hammock in the backyard ("Swinging, swinging, way up in the sky..") or just randomly throughout the day ("Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money..."), my mind is still full of these moments. They impressed on me, subconsciously, a sense of the world as music, as something that could be sung and explored and poetically explained. I would sing along to songs in the car on the way to school - I recall having a fondness for "Beat It" - or would even become fascinated with other songs I heard. My mom bought me, unexpectedly, a cassette of songs from the 1960s because it contained a song I had become really fascinated with - "California Dreamin," a song I still find eerily gorgeous in a way that few pop songs ever are.

2. My mom plays piano. She learned when she was younger and, for my entire life, she would every so often sit down at the piano in our living room and play. She tried once, very valiantly, to help me learn to play. I didn't latch onto it. I took three semesters in college as well and anything I learned has gone away from disuse. But seeing her sit down at the bench, seeing her play and sing, seeing the obvious and sincere enjoyment that she got from it, was a life lesson in itself. Eventually I would pick up the alto saxophone in 7th grade and go from there. Guitar would be not long after. There was always encouragement from both my parents, (I don't think dad could ever get enough of me playing "Ode to Joy" on my saxophone) but in her example was more than enough encouragement to learn and do whatever I wanted to with music.

3. When I got older and began my journey into obsession with pop music, she never discouraged me from owning something. When I was initially relying on my parents to buy me CDs, she would go with whatever I wanted, even, as one time I remember, if it had a parental warning label on it. If I wasn't walking around the house or at school using inappropriate language, I can only assume that she knew better than to worry about it. Besides, this is the woman who bought me a copy, unsolicited, of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. Ideas were important, not necessarily the way they were conveyed.

4. Whether it was playing in bands, coffee shops or in high school musicals, I was always supported in my musical endeavors. From middle school band concerts, to the Battle of the Bands that my first band, Loman, was in, from my roles in high school theatre productions to my playing solo acoustic sets in coffee shops downtown, my parents were both always there. They would come down to hear me play in the coffee shops especially, an always fun evening where it was my role to fill up three hours with music. I would play lots of originals and lots of covers. My parents both seemed to really enjoy my cover of the Ramones' "The KKK Took My Baby Away," and I was even solicited to play it at gatherings. Mostly by dad. Mom had a better sense of not embarrassing me - that was dad's job. But this encouragement, undoubtedly, is what leads me to bring my guitar into my classes and play - mostly quirky songs that I write to summarize stories or to explain concepts for my students - but an impact of that influence of the love of sharing music.

5. Mom reads my blog. She'll comment, over the phone and not in the comments area, about posts I wrote. She even listens to the podcast of my radio show, mentioning artists she heard that she likes. She continues to be supportive of my musical endeavors, even as they've changed shape over the years. From listener, to performer, to critical listener, she's always there.

Happy Mother's Day, mama. Thank you for all those moments and the many more to come.

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