My son has always been into music. I sang to him in utero endlessly; traditional lullabies, TV theme songs, Night Vale weather reports, musical theatre standards. He came out with an innate sense of rhythm (unlike his father or I) and an eclectic musical taste.
In the last year or two, he has become obsessed with “writing” his own songs, and has recently formed his own band – Fire on the Loose – whose members include, at any given time, himself and any adult he can rope into it (his Grandpapa seems to be a favorite).
I’ve got no musical inclination – I love music, but I have no innate talent, and don’t have the ability to juggle the pursuit in tandem with my art, writing, and language learning – but I try to encourage Bear as much as I can. He has cymbals, maracas, triangles, recorders, tambourines, and a keyboard, and after an afternoon of playing an “writing” songs, he decided to make a poster for his band:
Written independently by Bear, including spelling. Honestly, I was impressed.
So of course, I shared my enthusiasm with Facebook, because in some ways, I am very much a Millennial Mom. While most friends offered encouragement or amusement, my cousin decided to stir up repressed memories.
We eventually coaxed from the depths of our collective consciousness that someone’s name was Sour Apple Spice, at which point I think we all had a painful, full-body shudder and decided to leave well enough alone. Literally none of us could so much as pluck out a tune, and we had a band?? Come on.
But I came back to the conversation later, re-read it, and realized how much and how painfully I missed that time in my life.
Because we weren’t completely oblivious — we knew none of us could actually play music. But what we could do was come up with a band name, write song lyrics, put together costumes and personas, create posters and back stories — and that? That is creating a narrative.
That is storytelling.
I started thinking about all the other geeky shit that we got up to during those summers when we were all in junior high and high school, and my cousin Nikki all but lived at our house: the videos we made on my uncle’s old camcorder, staging talk shows and performing skits to send to penpals; piecing together costumes from old clothes, thrift store finds, and vintage costume jewelry to stage photo shoots; keeping notebooks full of handwritten, free-form role playing games, some spilling over online and encompassing a dozen people, some just between the three of us; writing elaborate self-insert fanfics and illustrating them for each other in Painter.
Those summer nights, we were costume designers, choreographers, writers, artists, photographers, models.
It was the silliest shit in the world, but it was freeing, and fun, and undoubtedly an exercise in unbridled creativity. It was something that, in a lot of ways, I would spend the rest of my life (thus far) chasing and never quite finding again.
I miss those nights. I miss that time with my sister and my cousin, huddled sleeplessly in front of the TV, re-watching out latest raw footage, or passing our roleplay notebooks back and forth. Those are nights I’m never going to get back.
But I see my son scribbling out his band poster, which is now hanging on his wall, and I am so, so happy that he still has so many of those nights to look forward to.
¹Literally apropos of nothing, but I was struggling to title this entry, finally stumbling on “Rock and Roll Dreams,” and then was fucking bowled over with a powerful wave of nostalgia for this song: