Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Timedavenger: May 27, 2007

The language of families evolves hilariously once kids show up. Bulldozers become bullzoders. Bird feeders are forever fird beeders. Even the title of a song that explores the inexorable cruelties of time can end up with a goofy nickname.

Still ‘Learning To Crawl’ a few decades later
    Every weekday morning, my sons and I pile into our 10-year old Volvo sedan and head into town for work and school. The trip always begins with this question from my 7-year-old: “Is the tape in the car?” That inquiry is usually followed by a demand from my 2-year-old: “Timedavenger!”

    For those of you who aren’t fluent in the mashed-word stew of 2-year-olds, that would be “Time the Avenger,” which is my sons’ favorite song on The Pretenders’ 1984 album “Learning To Crawl.” It’s a song about the merciless toll of time, the impermanence of this world, the cruel futility of existence. 

    It’s also got a really catchy backbeat, which my kids like a lot.

    Every morning I rewind the tape as we head out of the subdivision, and we listen to “The Middle of the Road,” “Back on the Chain Gang” and — about the time we hit the inevitable traffic clog at the split of interstates 75 and 24 — “Timedavenger.” We usually roll down the Ridge Cut to the tune of “Show Me,” a song that is stuck so deeply in my head that I catch myself humming it at work.

    My kids’ taste in music is largely the result of our policy of never spending money on cars. It’s practically a religious belief in my family that all cars must be driven at least 15 years, so we never have anything even approaching the latest musical technology in our vehicles.

    My husband and I haven’t gotten around to buying iPods (though we talk about it fairly regularly, which means it may happen in five or six years), and we have a big stack of cassettes left over from the last few decades that still work just fine in dashboard tape decks.

    When he was 4, my oldest son’s favorite song was The Who’s “Happy Jack,” followed closely by “Magic Bus.” Those are from the 1979 release “The Kids Are Alright.” It was really a kick watching a new little person discover those songs for the first time.

    “Did they have these songs when you were my age?” he would sometimes ask. In the case of The Who, they sure did. I was 7 when “The Kids Are Alright” was released.

    I was 12 when The Pretenders produced “Learning To Crawl,” and I wonder sometimes if, by the time he’s 12, my oldest son will have figured out that there is a whole other world of music out there — one that includes songs released in his lifetime that can be downloaded and manipulated to play in whatever order he cares to impose. No rewinding, no smacking buttons trying to get the tape to the right spot, no silent waiting while you listen to the tape whirring back and forth.

    For now, though, there is something appealing about listening with my sons, on obsolete technology, to music released decades before I even thought about having children. By the time we buy a car with a CD player, CDs (already on their way out) will be as outmoded as cassettes are now.

    I’m in no hurry, though. I don’t have “Learning To Crawl” on CD yet, and our archaic musical traditions are one small way my family is cheating “Timedavenger.”


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