I’m in the back of a brown Buick station wagon gazing out at the endless wheat fields outside my window. Did I have a seat belt on? Probably not. We’re on a road trip and it’s my dad’s turn to pick the music. Willie Nelson is crooning and I’m rolling my eyes. Another hour until I get to listen to the Muppet Show for the 56th time.
Now I’m on a road trip with my own kids traveling to the same Bryce and Zion playing that same Stardust album. I appreciate his nonchalant delivery and elegant productions but it’s more than that. My eyes tear while I listen to it.
I wonder – am I so moved because these songs encapsulate this journey, from child to mother, from one side of the US to the other? Or is it the music itself that I can now appreciate as an adult?
Probably both. Willie Nelson is Willie Nelson. AND my father instilled in me a connection to this music. He felt it strongly and he passed it down.
Now it’s my kids in the back asking- “do we have to hear that again?”
Wait till they’re older…
Music collapses time. It brings the past viscerally into the present. Because it’s stored in a different region of our brain than memories, it activates parts of our brain that bring back our sense-memory of an experience.
Have you ever heard a song from your childhood and feel like you are back on a swing with your cousin, or at that party in highschool with your friend, or in the delivery room with your new baby? Music brings back memories with all five senses. Suddenly we can smell the salty ocean, taste that margarita, feel the brand new skin of our baby.
Why do I bring this up now? Because this is the time to tap into this.
We’re in that magical time between the holidays that brings anticipation, excitement, and an unwinding of the year. And boy do we need it this year.
But this time it’s very different. We aren’t gathering, and that really sucks. But as always with Covid, there is a silver lining.
Because of the physical distance from our families we’re left to remember past years and cherish what we once took for granted. Have you been thinking back to last Christmas when everyone woke up together? Or a few years ago when your family sang Haunuka songs together?
We have more time to ponder what we really want holidays to look like for our young families. We can take a moment to recall the traditions that run in our family, be intentional about continuing the good ones, resurrecting others, and tossing some out completely.
This year is the perfect time to tap into our collective family musical memory for three reasons:
- Our memories are being evoked.
- We’re feeling more emotional this year.
- You’re building your young family.
So I’ve been thinking…what if we use our awkward and contrived Zoom family get-togethers to explore the traditions of our family more deeply?
Have you ever asked your grandma or parent what music was sung to them when they were little? Or what songs they remember their parents singing at the holidays?
NOW is the time to conjure up these memories. Every moment that goes by is an opportunity for the older generation to forget. I don’t know about you but my “mom brain” is here to stay. My memory is about as useful as a Momaroo. So I can’t imagine what memories are still rattling around in our parents’ heads. We have to get to them asap!
For this year’s family Zoom get together I propose you take some time to explore your family playbook, remember your family traditions, and bring the past into your baby’s future.
You know I wouldn’t suggest this if I didn’t try it myself. This morning my cousins, aunt, mother and I got together on Zoom and reminisced about the music passed down through the generations of our family.
I found out that most of their family music memories weren’t from holidays rather from singing in the car. My grandfather had a knack for remembering (or making up, we’ll never know,) silly nonsensical songs that are etched into our memories like graffiti on a camp bunk bed.
I also found out that my cousin in law’s family sings Christmas carols together before their meal while drinking eggnog. And the best part? They have a playbook with all the lyrics!
So this year let’s make sticky lemonade out of rotten lemons and work on creating our family’s playbook.
Instead of letting that one family member monopolize your Zoom call while everyone else feels awkward, or only talking about what the kids are up to, why not seize the moment and have a conversation that will impact your baby’s future and holidays to come?
I’ve got a new offering for people who would like me to facilitate this exciting meeting (email me if you want to get more details on that.) But I want to give you a starter kit of questions to bring to your family.
Caution – as always when we dive into memories, this could bring up some STUFF. Along with the fuzzy images of family may also come the harsher ones. You or other family members may feel emotional during the conversation. That’s OK. Tread lightly. Go as far as your collective memory will allow without people spiraling into a dark place. Or, if you can, go there and come back together through song.
Here are some questions that you can ask your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, and siblings in your family Zoom meeting:
- What songs were sung to you when you were a baby/kid?
- What songs do you remember being played when you were a kid?
- When you think of holidays with your family when you were a kid, what is a song you think of most?
- What are your favorite holiday traditions that you used to do with your parents and family?
- What traditions did you want to make sure to pass on to us?
And questions for you and your partner:
- What songs do we want to bring to our baby’s holiday experience?
- What family traditions do we want to pass on?
- What family traditions do we want to toss?
I would love to know what you think about this idea, if you’ll do it, and how it goes when you do. Please COMMENT below.
And if you’d like to book a one time family session with me, I can’t wait. Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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