In Which I Finally Have a Worthy Song Stuck in my Head

We rattle our cart from one end of the big box store (the place of which I do not speak) to the other in search of dog food. We pass the aisle of heavily promoted junk (the aisle upon which we dare not look), and a backpack catches my little girl's eye. "Look at dat pink 'parkly one!" she squeals. And before I can change the subject, her older brother interjects, "Oh, that's Hannah Montana. She's a singer on TV."

"Where did you hear about Hannah Montana?" I raise an eyebrow, ready to blame Disney on-demand for cross promoting to preschoolers.  (Never mind that my oldest is nearly two years past preschool. Denial, much?)

"At school. All the girls like her and sing her songs and stuff. I don't know why."

Neither do I. But I catch myself, tell myself to squash the judgy, holier-parent-than-thou monologue. After all, I am shopping at Walmart the big box store of which we do not speak. Not exactly an appropriate setting in which to look down upon society and tout my superior ways of simple and intentional living and parenting.

I pick over the slim choices for senior kibble while the kids wave their arms and shout for me to come see the hermit crab they spotted in the fish tank.

Am I seriously shopping at a store that sells hermit crabs, Hannah Montana back-packs and gluten-free Panda Puffs?

On the way to piano lessons, it still feels out of nowhere when Caed announces, "Morgan and Sophie went to a Hannah Montana concert. And Lydia even watched a Lady Gaga concert."

"Lady Gaga? What?"

"Yeah. What's Lady Gaga anyway? Is she a singer?"

I stumble over how to explain Lady Gaga to a six year old, and trip over words to end up saying very little. Yes, she's a singer. But most of her music isn't appropriate for kids--maybe not even for grown-ups. Just not the sort of words and messages we want to put in our ears and get in our heads.... yadda yadda yadda. 

Then the rest of the afternoon, I work awfully hard to get "Telephone" out of my head. (Sorry I cannot hear you / I'm kinda busy / k-kinda busy). The words hypocrite and double standard come to mind more than once as well.

At dinner, I relay to Larry the hard-to-believe claim that one of Caed's classmates watched a Lady Gaga concert. (Given Caed has come home saying Jimmy saw two real leprechauns in his yard and Joey has gone to Chuck E Cheese like, 500 times, and he's only 7!, I am wise enough to doubt the veracity of everything Caed reports.)

But it sparks good conversation, a chance to define what is meant by "pop music" and "pop culture". Larry explains that these shock artists and boy bands and teen idols will come and go and be forgotten (New Kids on the Block, anyone?), but there is art out there--beautiful, gorgeous art for the ears--that stands the test of time.

He googles Aaron Copland, and plays this piece for the kids.

"What does the music sound like to you? How does it make you feel?" Larry asks a minute or so into the piece.

"Like skipping around and butterflies and, like trees and baby birds." Caed responds.

"Like growing and green," I add, my eyes meeting those of our impromptu music teacher.

And in those moments, we forget all about Lady Gaga and gaudy pink backpacks and all the junk those around us try to pass off as art.  Sorry, Lady G, we cannot hear you--we're kinda busy.

We wave our arms like branches of trees and wands of conductors. The kids unwrap candy from their Easter stash and listen to the ageless art as the lemon drops melt sour, then sweet. It is here at this cluttered mess of a table that I feel like a commoner turned queen, like the dishes could wait for weeks, like there is finally a worthy melody stuck in my head. 

It is here that my heart sings.

*The names of the classmates have been changed to protect the innocent. :-)

Can you trust me when I say this isn't to bash Lady Gaga or pop culture or parents who allow more of it in their kids lives than I do in mine? And by no means do I plan on switching my running soundtrack on Pandora radio from Black Eyed Peas to Chopin.

I wrote this simply so I wouldn't forget what a sweet gift I found at the dinner table last night. I wrote this to remind myself to play a bit more of Beethoven and a bit less of Beyonce. I wrote this to encourage myself--and you--to teach our children the meaning of ageless art, to introduce them to the sort of beauty that far outshines the glitter of a thousand Hannah Montana backpacks.

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