This summer we bought our first van to make space for our third child. This was maybe evidence enough that I am getting on in years, but it really took our free trial of Sirius XM to bring it home to me.
After slowly mastering the headlights and how to park the behemoth, I moved on to exploring the dial, and found, to my slight embarrassment, that two of my favorite stations are Pop Rocks and Prime Country.
Both date me pretty seriously, especially when I cut through campus and pass college students who maybe weren’t even born when these tunes debuted.
And it’s weird, right, the alchemy that nostalgia plays on our tastes? There are, of course, songs that fill me with delight just like they did in 2000: anything from Dixie Chicks’ Fly album, for instance. But there are also songs I never owned or wanted to own, but which I now greet with enthusiasm, associated indelibly as they are with my pop-punk little sister when we were in high school, or my freshman college roommate, who had far better informed tastes than I ever developed.
I feel, cruising past today’s freshmen, a little embarrassed by my musical selection (as if even the hippest music blaring from a minivan might somehow impress undergrads). I feel embarrassed, that is, until I think of my parents and their enduring love when I was growing up for both the local classic rock station and the “‘80s, ’90s and today” station. The memories of those songs form the soundtrack of my early childhood, of Saturdays when my dad washed the car and morning commutes to summer camp with my mom, so much more than whatever was hip at the time. (In fact, I remember being marveled at in third grade for not knowing who Boyz II Men were, even though I could have told the kids quite a lot about the Eagles.)
So, on balance, I’m grateful to have found a nostalgia niche for my generation, as the grey hair begins to fill my hairbrush and I stare down 32. I’m glad to be reminded, on my way to the grocery store, over the chatter of my chatty progeny, that before this era, I was mostly the same person: scrawny and introspective and shout-singing the same lyrics. It’s a world in which I hold a membership earned by those gray hairs, a world to which I can introduce my children, one scratchily, enthusiastically sung old hit at a time.