Like many in my generation, I was a collector from a young age. Comic books, football cards, Civil War books and artifacts, unrequited schoolboy loves--you name it and I hoarded it. I did, however, lament the fact that neither of my parents had a golden stash of something cool or rare or valuable that you always heard about some guy's mom finding under a bunch of dusty old blankets in an attic somewhere. You know, the kind of Indiana Jones-esque treasure find that would have me set for life so I could move out and surround myself with lots of cool toys and books and chicks who dug that sorta thing.
Instead, I grew up in a home where the garage was utilzed for two primary purposes: A) as the place for the "other" refrigerator--home to my mom's Tab cola and occasionally the boxed wine and B) as the de-facto storage space for the accumulated junk--old toys, clothes, and boxes full of boxes as far as I could tell.
Other than the tired old "food on the table/roof over my head" offering, I wasn't certain that either of my parents had anything to offer of financial or cultural relevance to me. I've heard from many of you about how "cool" your parents' taste in music was. Well up until the age of about thirty, I was convinced that at best, popular music was an "agree to disagree" subject between myself and my parents. My mom and dad weren't "cool" and thus I knew I'd have to carry the burden of "cool" for the family. I never feared such vital responsibility.
But all of that changed a few years ago. Upon acquiring a turntable as a housewarming gift, I found myself desirous of records of any and all kinds. Seemingly overnight, I was open to music new and old from a myriad of genres. I wanted classical music, opera, spoken word, old blues and any form of pop music was newly intriguing. On a trip to my childhood home, my mother (still not certain WHY I'd want records in a digital world) informed me that there were a couple of boxes in the garage full of old records--many of which had been there since my parents had built the house in 1976. I quickly hauled the boxes out to our living room and found a combination of both my mother's old records mixed with a few of my stepfather's.
And what I discovered was the long, lost treasure I had longed for as a kid. Dozens of old soul and R&B records from the 60's and 70's--most in amazingly pristine condition. From The Temptations, to Otis, to the Four Tops, Arthur Conley, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Isaac Hayes, Al Green--you name it. It was a treasure trove of classic soul music. While the collection was littered with other pop and classical selections, it was the greatness of the soul and R&B records my mother posessed that excited and surprised me most.
It was a revelation and the enthusiasm I gushed seemed to somewhat floor my mother. Ever since, we've bonded over our shared love of Motown and Stax legends and now there isn't a single yard/garage sale where my mother isn't furiously hunting for records. The discovery of this vinyl bounty, while immediately gratifying, humbled and educated me in the long term. It turns out that my mom A) was, in fact, my age at some point in her life B) had taste in popular music that was EXCELLENT and C) I realized it was arrogant and short-sighted to be oblivious to A and B for so many years.
Tangible signs that our parents were once "people" in the way that we know ourselves to be is often disconcerting. But for me, it's been an opportunity to bond over something where there's so much shared love--the gift of great music. As our parents age along with us, reminders of their mortality can be jarring and more frequent. But it is the reminders of their humanity that we have such a great opportunity to embrace. And when that humanity has a soundtrack? I would contend there's nothing better in this life.
Everyone else, press the play button in the box below the track listing.
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