Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nothing new but no less true

Yesterday, as is the case on many yesterdays, Jonathan and I ate dinner with 80s music playing in the background. There's nothing like Journey singing "Don't stop believin" over your fish sticks and mashed sweet potatoes. Sometimes it's Ella Fitzgerald and tomato soup. Other times it's James Morrison over fried eggs and sausage. But it's never as good as when those 80s ballads are playing. No really. It's never as good. Because those are the songs of my childhood, the soundtrack to my elementary school memories. So they're not just good. I don't mean they're nice sounding songs. I mean they're Good with a big G. Ultimately Good. Deeply comforting. Inextricably attached to everything pure in the recesses of my mind. Damn near holy.

There are two reasons for this almost worship-worthy status. The first is that my childhood was good and therefore its music is bundled into the nostalgia of my "good old days." The second is that my childhood was childhood. What I mean is: I didn't know much and therefore didn't have much to concern or worry me, didn't have real responsibility, didn't have everything that comes with that moment when you have to start playing along with the whole Santa thing, when you realize your body can now have a baby, and you realize that some people don't have anyone to love them or feed them and they die that way, and you realize some people are genuinely mean, and that your parents are (gasp) having sex, and that your older siblings (gasp) probably are too. Childhood means I'd not had my awakening yet, and ignorance was bliss, and the music attached to that ignorance is now a comfort.

I don't regret my awakening. I treasure it. But there's nothing in adulthood that compares to the comfort in the simple and pure ignorance of childhood. Where absolutes stood, conditions grew. Instead of simple faith, there's a wary sideways glance. Once out of the cave, there's no turning back.

I suspect the childhood foundation of not knowing is what gets us through all of these years of knowing. It provides a store of comfort for those times when nothing else will quite do. That foundation is built by the people around us, yes. But also by culture. By music. By art. By stories--those indispensable things where another person in another world overcomes, where the monster is defeated, the prize won, the mountain climbed.

So here's to Cyndi Lauper and Louis Sachar and the Muppet Babies and Men at Work and Judy Blume and She-Ra for being there even after that moment when adulthood struck and there was no turning back, and when, perhaps most tragic and beautiful of all, there was no urge to turn back but instead a longing to rush forward.