With Christmas a little over two months away I’m beginning to ponder about the gifts to give my family. I don’t like to shop very much and being that I’ve had to tighten my belt like everyone else on the planet, the gifts will have to be something that comes from the heart without putting me in severe credit card debt for the rest of 2012.
I’ve been on a jam-making binge for the last year and the kids always take a jar or two back with them after they visit, so a jar of jam wrapped under the tree won’t be unique. I don’t have a sewing machine so I won’t be making any quilts and I don’t know how to knit so that’s out as well. The only thing I can paint is a bedroom wall and I bake pies and treats anyway so a tin box full of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies is old news.
I think the best thing to give my kids this holiday season is the kind of gift that will help them get to know a little bit more about the mother who raised them. I made my share of mistakes raising the boys (fondly referred to over the years as the “Two-Man Swarm,”) but one thing I did right was to give them the gift of music. When they were growing in utero and were at the point where they could supposedly hear sounds, I would put earphones to my belly and play Bob Marley, Mozart, Jackson Browne, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and George Benson. As they got older they found their own style of music to grow up with and even though their music was not my cup of tea (music wars in the car were the norm), I had hope that one day they would come to appreciate and understand the “junk that mom listened to.”
With that in mind, maybe I’ll give my kids a CD burned with songs that have some historical significance for their mother. The CD can be accompanied with a small paragraph on why certain songs meant so much to “mom.” They will know that “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am,” recorded by the Herman’s Hermits, was the first song I listened to out of a jukebox in a restaurant near Lake Isabella during a camping week with my family. I played it over and over until I accidentally hit the wrong button on the jukebox and was turned on to Tom Jones singing, “What’s New Pussycat.” I was probably the only eight year old from the San Fernando Valley who made her mother buy a 45rpm featuring the Tom Jones hit.
As my hormones were changing in junior high school and my mood swings were as out-of-control as a boomerang caught in a blizzard, I became “at-one” with the Gilbert O’Sullivan brooder, “Alone Again, (Naturally).” My kids will also know that it was during those junior high years that I really did not like my name. So, naturally, when Gilbert O’Sullivan came out with his hit, “Claire,” I wanted to change my name to Claire. Sometimes I still do.
It was also at Portola Junior High School in Tarzana that my friend Betty turned me on to Jackson Browne. My kids grew up knowing that their mother was a fan of his music but I’m not sure they know why. As author Stephen Thomas Erlewine once wrote, Browne’s music, “….provided a touchstone for a generation of maturing baby boomers coming to terms with adulthood.” Bingo. Betty and I would write out the lyrics to some of his most prolific songs like, “These Days,” and “Late For the Sky,” in our journals and knew that he wrote those lyrics especially for us.
High school was all about Carole King, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. I’ll have to burn, “Hotel California,” for them and write a few words about how in 1977 I waited for three days in line at the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood to get the best tickets possible for their tour with another friend of mine who is also named Stacey. I’m not sure I’ll tell them what happened the night I was listening to the song, “Beth,” by KISS back in October of 1975 but I will tell them that my favorite driving records is “Breakfast in America,” by Supertramp. There are some great Humboldt State stories to go along with that LP.
Yes, there is a lot my boys don’t know about me. However, letting them know about the music I’ve loved throughout the years and why will be a great way of giving them a glimpse about who I was before I was their mom.