Saturday, September 10, 2005

"American Pie"

One of the goals almost all parents have in raising their children is that they gain an appreciation, and possibly even adopt, ones likes and dislikes. As a Dad to Meikina and Meigon, I try to replicate as often as possible experiences I had as a child, and which I carry with me to this day. I fix certain foods that I grew up enjoying, hoping that my girls will learn to like them as well. We watch certain movies like “Mary Poppins” and “Little House on the Priarie,” movies that I remember loving, and which I hope my daughters will adopt as an important component of their childhood. In this way family traditions are built – rhythms of a household that make it distinct and unique from the house next door.

And so it was that I read that Don McLean was going to be performing at this year’s State Fair. Almost as long as I can remember I have loved his music, especially his memorable yet tragic ballad “American Pie”. I remember loving it long before I knew its story, recounted in the song, of the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and others in a snow storm in February 1959.

Consequently, my girls hear this song played disproportionately often in our house. "American Pie", along with any song by the Eagles, form the foundation of “Daddy’s favorite songs” in the minds of my girls. They have learned the lyrics, and they sing along with me at the top of our lungs as we rocket down the road.

So, I decided to bring Meikina and Meigon to one of those sign-post events in one’s life: a rock concert. I went to my first concert at 17, Neil Diamond at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles (and it wasn’t the one they recorded for “Hot August Night” – I’m not that old!). I remember how much I enjoyed singing along with thousands of others, feeling the energy from both audience and performer. I remember going home hoarse from screaming, almost begging from the back row for Neil to play my favorite songs, which amazingly he eventually did. Concerts became a frequent experience for me. I loved them.

So, after visiting the cows, goats, sheep and other farm animals, and downing a few hot dogs, we made out way to the Pepsi Arena to find our seats. We got lucky to get row 9 center seats, since we had three in our group and the ticket office had an odd lot set aside. As a few summer storm clouds passed overhead, we waited for America’s master song writer to appear on stage.

The crowd around us was mostly grown-ups, but many with kids similar to mine. I imagine that they too wanted their kids to remember an important artist from their parent’s lives. As the sun touched down behind the Great Salt Lake, the announcer’s voice boomed the name of Don McLean, and the show began.

We had listened to McLean’s “Greatest Hits” CD on our way to Salt Lake so that the girls would recognize more than just his signature song. I knew that like most artists, he would probably sing “American Pie” towards the end of the concert, if not very last. He began with some cover songs, which none of us had ever heard, but which he explained were Buddy Holly songs. I understood the significance.

About an hour into the show, with McLean having sung only one song the girls recognized, Meikina and Meigon began to get bored. “When is he going to sing the song?” Meigon asked, her eyes starting to droop. Glancing at my watch, I replied “In the next few songs, I think.” I hoped. I didn’t want Meigon to fall asleep before the big event!

Finally, to a round of thunderous applause, we heard the familiar strain: “A long, long time ago.” Meikina and Meigon bolted upright, fiercely clapping and screaming with the rest of the crowd. We began to sing along with the rest of the audience, keeping in rough syncopation with the artist on stage. As we heard the familiar line, “We all got up to dance,” my girls jumped into the aisle with several others, and began to dance around. It was a spectacle to see – all of us singing, dancing and having a great time. The audience was so enthusiastic that McLean did an encore rendition, allowing us to do much of it all over again.

With all of us humming “American Pie” we made our way to the car. “Daddy,” Meikina asked as we drove home, “Why did the music die?” I explained that in February 1959, “a year before Daddy was born”, three very important musicians had died in a snow storm while flying on a plane. “Why did Satan laugh?” I answered that he laughed because he was happy that so many people were sad that these artists had died. With that she sat back. “Let’s hear it again Daddy”, Meigon intoned.

And we did.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, from another long-time DM fan. I've seen him in small, smoky nightclubs and large concert halls. I remember him quipping "People are always asking me what American Pie means. I tell them it means I never have to work again."

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Your writing ability is so wonderful I just had to comment. The toothfairy story brought tears to my eyes. I am all about bringing as much fantasy into my daughter's life as possible, I loved believing as a child and want Lily to experience that wonder as well. And so far it has been great fun (except for the time she thought she could fly like Peter Pan and threw herself off the sofa onto the floor). But I have often wondered what to say when we get to that point of no return and the questions about what is real and fantasy begin. Now I have somewhere to begin thinking about it. You are a very wise person. Thanks so much for your blog, it is a total pleasure to explore.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know your "Tooth Fairy" blog is not recent, but I just read it. When I found out that Santa was not real, I was afraid that my parents had also lied to me about God, and doubted His existence for a time.

Therefore, with my kids, I've never told them the Tooth Fairy, or Santa, or the Bunny, was real, but that they were "magic". When asked the definition of "magic", we respond that magic is when things are different than they seem.

We also let them know that on Christmas morning, some of their stuff is from Santa, and some from us, and don't tell them which is which. They become accepting of the ambiguity of the identity of the giftgiver.

We have 4 children, and these explanations have seemed to make the transitions easier.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your writing--sensitive but not mawkish--you have the absolute heart of a true father!

Susan, adoptive mom to an 11-year-old from China

10:37 AM  
Anonymous a foster parent said...

Thanks for your story about the tooth-fairy! It's full of recognition. Our boy was so disappointed when he discovered the truth (by us telling him).
And then all the detailed questions!
I think no parent should lie about tooth-fairies, santa claus, and all of these magic. Especially not tot children that learned that not all adults all trustful.
We tell our foster-son he can believe what HE wants, and he still believes a LOT! :)

10:39 AM  

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