Tag Archives: puff the magic dragon

Desert Island Discs: Narrating Your Life Through Music

peter paul and mary
peter paul and mary

There’s a popular, long-running radio show in the U.K. where I live called Desert Island Discs. The premise behind the show is quite simple: a guest is invited by the host choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island. But it’s really a vehicle for getting famous people – whether that’s Bill Gates or David Beckham or Zaha Hadid – to narrate their lives through music.

So what most guests do is to select songs that speak to different parts of their lives: a piece that conjures up their childhood or family…something to capture the time they met their spouse…a tune that speaks to the most creative point in their career or the death of a beloved relative. You get the picture.

Needless to say, in one of my occurring fantasies I am a guest being interviewed on this program about my book project on swimming and adulthood, narrating how I built my illustrious career as a full-time writer over the course of a lifetime. (Hey, we all gotta dream…)

Which of course only begs the question: which songs would I choose to tell my story?

Early Childhood

Early childhood is an easy one for me. I would select Puff The Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul and Mary. Yes, I know, a cheesy selection by certain measures. Yet, for me, that’s a song that makes me weep every time I hear it as it is about the inevitability of loss as we age: the loss of playfulness, the loss of our childhood friends, and the painful but necessary separation we must all undertake from our families of origin.

Adolescence

Adolescence is also an easy one for me. I listened to a lot of Billy Joel as a teenager, a songwriter who so clearly evokes a particular moment in the late 1970s-early 1980s – just after the Disco era ended and a particular place – most of his songs are about the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area and the longing to get out and make more of ourselves. I could pick any of his hits, but these five Billy Joel tunes probably speak to me most, still.

College

College has got to be either The Grateful Dead singing Ripple or Dire Straits doing Romeo and Juliet – the only two bands I ever went to see perform more than once. These songs readily call to mind the most carefree time of my life, a time when I didn’t worry about anything other than going to classes and hanging out with my friends (not always in that order!) and didn’t think at all about the future. It was perhaps the only time in my life that I was fully “present,” before any concerns about rent and jobs and graduate school kicked in.

Courtship

I had never listened to jazz before I met my husband, but he introduced me to this great musical tradition and to this artist – Gene Harris – in particular. During the early months of our courtship, we used to listen to Like a Lover first thing when we woke up in the morning. Bliss.

Using Music to Better Understand Yourself

Much like writing your own obituary – something I wrote about on these pages recently – thinking about how your narrate your life through music is an intersting exercise. Music reconnects you to your past. It gets you to think in concrete terms about what different phases of your life meant to you and why. And in doing that, you get a better handle on your present self – what you like about yourself, what you might wish to flee, what you miss about yourself, what you’d like to see more of in the years ahead.

So go ahead, try it. What are some of your “desert island discs”?

 

Image: Peter, Paul and Mary 1970 via Wikimedia Commons

Tips for Adulthood: Five Signs that You Feel Nostalgic for Your Childhood

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s post builds on yesterday’s post about whether or not kids are growing up too quickly. Today, in a nod to my own early years, I post about five signs that you’re feeling nostalgic for your childhood:

1. You have an inappropriate attachment to Monopoly. You know it’s bad when you hold up Monopoly as the paragon of a “real game” to your kids (unlike that “junk” they play on the computer). As a recent article in Wired magazine points out, Monopoly is actually a really stupid game because the only strategic question is “buy or not buy” and you spend the whole time trying to reduce your opponent to dust. And yet, I still find myself oddly drawn to the role of deeder (or whatever you call that person who hands out the properties). Then again, my conception of a video game doesn’t extend much beyond Pacman, so maybe that’s what I really ought to be concerned about.

2. You still buy candy necklaces. And eat them. What? Am I the only one who does this?

3. You tear up at children’s concerts. Worse, you sing along. Especially when someone plays Puff the Magic Dragon. The worst part is, it doesn’t have to be my kids who are singing. I was at a farmer’s market a few years back when this pudgy 11 year old girl from the local junior high got up and sang Tomorrow (from Annie). Before I knew it, tears began to slowly fall across my face. Someone next to me asked if the little girl was my child. “Um…no,” I was forced to reply. “I just like this song.”

4. You wish you had a mood ring. Remember those? The ones that told you what mood you were in by the color of the ring? Mine always seemed to be black, which I think meant “nervous.” Pretty much tells you all you need to know about my childhood.

5. You still find yourself attracted to Luke Skywalker. My son had a play date recently with another little boy and they started arguing over whether or not Anakin Skywalker was ugly. (Read here for a great article by Slate’s Emily Bazelon about the enduring appeal of Star Wars for little boys.) I suddenly felt compelled to jump in and defend Luke’s looks. The little boy turned to me and said: “Oh! Do you fancy Luke? He looks very smart.” At which point I had to admit begrudgingly that, yes, I do in fact fancy Luke.

*****

In case you missed it – and because it’s already making the rounds of the Mommy Blog circuit – here’s a link to Ayelet Waldman’s remarkably candid interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where she talks about her new book, Bad Mother.

Image: New Monopoly Board by Vinduhl via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl