The pandemic first impacted most of us when many restaurants and bars closed to indoor dining one year ago. Where I live, that shutdown occurred the day after my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at a local restaurant. We remember eating that night and thinking, “There’s no way they’ll shut down this restaurant.” We all know what happened next: a full year of pandemic family life.
When I reflect on the past year, I start with gratitude. My wife and I have remained healthy and employed, and my two daughters have been able to continue school virtually with few problems.
But after that, I join the majority of families tired of living the underscheduled life. When someone asked me recently what my family did for the weekend, I thought it was a joke. Given the extremely cold winter and ongoing shutdowns, the answer has defaulted to “takeout and TV.” Or sometimes, “TV and takeout.”
On the way to pick up all that takeout with my teen daughter, however, we have started to bond over an unlikely source: music. Thanks to satellite radio, we take turns switching channels but also decades while sharing songs. She shares her pop favorites from the 2010s and ’20s. I share my favorites from the 1980s and ’90s. Granted, we don’t always love each other’s time travel. But let’s face it: since the rise of rock and roll (among other genres) in the 1950s, parents and children have been closer in their musical tastes than previous generations.
How do I know? When I accidentally turn on stations that play music from the 1940s and ’50s, I have a visceral reaction. It’s as if my father’s music and mine are from two different galaxies while my daughter’s and mine are from nearby planets.
Sharing songs, stories bring families together
Sometimes, however, celestial confusion reigns. For example, one day “Give a Little Bit” by Supertramp came on the radio. My daughter, who did not see that I had put on one of my “old” stations, declared “this group must have remade the Goo Goo Dolls’ song!”
I had to laugh. I explained that Supertramp made the song in 1977 and the Goo Goo Dolls remade it in 2004. (I’m the youngest of six, so my childhood music stretched back into the 1970s.) But the mention of the Goo Goo Dolls reminded me of a story that upped my “cool quotient” with my daughter and tightened our musical bonds.
I explained that back at my college in Buffalo, New York, there was a little-known local band that used to play at the campus rathskellar (nicknamed The Rat as so many of them were). Their name: The Goo Goo Dolls. I’ll never forget reading the flier on a light pole and thinking “weird name, but maybe they’ll be good.” Of course, they were incredible, and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t keep a copy of that flier from my college days. The next year at that college, though, I met my wife, and thankfully I’ve managed to keep her for 26 years now.
Granted, such a warm concert memory is bittersweet during a pandemic. All college kids should be hearing new bands at places like The Rat and laughing at crazy band names on campus fliers. Hopefully those days will return soon.
In the meantime, families should continue sharing stories along with songs during these extended hours together, at home, waiting for more life to resume. We’ve all had to give a little bit, and many have had to give a lot. But families need to keep giving to each other, keep providing each other space for a little bit longer. At least this experience is bonding parents and children in myriad ways, some of which may not become apparent for decades.
Speaking of decades, my wife and I just made our plan for our 26th wedding anniversary. Our tentative, might-get-cancelled hope is to eat in something called an outdoor “gondola.” Far from a romantic boat ride in Venice, we’ll be sitting in a ski-lift style cable car. But hey, after the year families have been through, it will be smooth skiing for a few hours someplace other than home.
Photo by Kevin McKeever