The cat’s in the cradle, baby (bAYBEE!)

Yesterday I sat in the car with my kids, listening to the radio and this song came on. I warned the kids that I would be compelled to join in at the critical moment…I prepared them… but it did not help. When I wailed “BABY! BAY-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!,” they giggled with embarrassment and told me to get a hold of myself. I informed them that every time I was in the car with my mom and that song came on, we all braced ourselves for her BABY! BAY-BEEEEEEEEEEE!!! (which she inevitably inserted into the chorus somewhat prematurely, but that was ok because it just gave her a chance to sing it again at the appropriate moment a little later,) and it was my turn now. They asked me if her mother, my grandmother, had done the same. I told them that the song had not been around back then, but what I knew about my Italian grandmother told me that had it been, she would have given Celine Dion a run for her money.

Reserved little Gracie sat in back and said thoughtfully, with just a note of resignation. “And now I suppose I will have to do that with my kids”. I informed her that yes, yes indeed she would.

Later that afternoon, I drove to meet my family at the pool for the last couple of hours this Summer. I had not been up to the full afternoon out there, but I was determined that the pool season would not end without me there.

This song came on as I made my way over there-the quintessential dreamy/nostalgic/summer anthem and I felt sad. I have always felt as though Summer was precious time. It is precious time. It’s the time when it is most obvious to me that my kids are mine for only a short time and I relish it. I try to make the most of it. For a good portion of this Summer I have felt too pukey to embrace Summer in the way that I wanted to. My kids have been uncomplaining about this. They have made their own fun, and it has been touching to see how excited they are about their new sibling and how patient, tender and solicitous they have been toward their mother in her unfun/unglam state. But still, driving along, with the back-seat quiet I was sad at how many afternoons at the pool with them I have missed this summer. I have missed singing along to the radio with them every day as we went on errands. I have missed going for runs with them and bike rides.

I won’t get too maudlin because it’s all for a good cause, of course,…but it’s amazing the power an emotive song has to bring you to “it’s all going too fast” fits of hormonal sniffles.

Once at the pool Aaron and I watched our oldest son doing fancy flips off the diving board, with youthful ease and recklessness….commenting on the fact that we could remember the day he was born like, yesterday. I remember his perfect little chiseled features, his calm and wise countenance… lying peacefully in his little Moses basket on our couch as we gazed at him in utter enchantment. It was yesterday.


And then as if to prove a point, this song came on the radio at the pool and we chuckled sadly, the way old people do. As our kids have grown we have often called, semi-jokingly to each other, “the cat’s in the cradle!” as a signal to pay attention to one of the children when the other was distracted. Because if you get distracted, if you blink. It is over. Just like Summer. Just like one of Benjamin’s fancy dives.


When I got home, I lay in the bath and ate sushi. (No fear, just the fakey California roll type). The combination of these two activities proved soothing to our persnickety blob and I was feeling a state of mild euphoria for a change. One of the kids had left the radio on in their room and it was tuned to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown (retrospective of course-is that dude still around?)

This tune came on (I loved it then, and I love it now-I make no apologies for that..I don’t.) Suddenly I was transported back to being 10 years old, waiting for the DJ to stop talking already so I could push play/record on my tape player. (I still remember all the commentary that the DJ’s would sneak onto the end of my gave them character I guess..later when I was a DJ at a Top 40 radio station I would specifically avoid speaking over the intro/endings of songs just in case there were any teeny boppers out there trying to make a mixed tape off the radio-it did not endear me to my boss).

Anyway! I was transported to a time when this song was so exciting- it represented anticipation-getting ready for going out on a Saturday night…(or what I imagined that would be like since I was 10 and I watched The Golden Girls on Saturday nights.)

As I lay in the bath, I suddenly felt so wistful. I wished my kids could grow up in the 80’s listening to ridiculously cheesy pop music. I wish they (or we) didn’t have to deal with internet, and cell phones, with sexting and cyber bullying. I felt envious of my parents raising us in a time when there was no internet, when there was one phone and any boy who called me had to go through my dad first…and he knew exactly how long I was on the phone because he would inevitably trip over the cord that was stretched across the hallway since I had dragged the phone into my room for a little bit of a privacy. Ah simple simple timeslastjump……

In one day thanks to a random assortment of songs on the radio… I had been sitting in the car with my mom, mildly embarrassed but secretly thrilled by her fun, unbridled spirit, something had been shared over 3 generations….I had reflected on the gift every day with our kids is and how once they are gone, they are gone. I had marveled at how quickly we grow up…and wondered if my kids will look back on this complicated time in history with longing and wish it was as simple for their teens…..

Viva Le Music.

A few more scenes from our last day at the pool….sniff..sniff…


diving coach

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biguglymandoll said...

Will I have to do that with my kids? "Yes, yes indeed she would." Too right she will. As do we all.

And yes, we DID build that city on Rock and Roll. I'm just sayin', is all.

I remember, one of my earliest and perhaps fondest memories, my father propping me up with him in front of the speakers listening to John Denver or Neil Diamond. Doesn't matter what they sound like now - that's what will always come back when I think about my dad. The smell of the shirt he was wearing, the look of the summer sun coming through the windows in Denver in 1973, the vague recollection from his eyes that this time was something to cherish. He went to Viet Nam later that year; he came back a year later.

I didn't understand how much he enjoyed listening to those songs with me until his grandkids were born. Sometimes you need to have kids of your own.

{april kennedy} said...

sniff sniff (and I'm not even pregnant). that was beautiful. loved reading every bit of it. and dave and i were just talking about pressing play on the recorder and hating when the DJ talked over the music!!!

Dahling said...

I have no recollection of Mom singing that song? Maybe she spared me because she thought it would just be too much for me ; ) However I do remember many of the parents other music phases particularly Dad and the Carpenters tape that he played for an entire drive to Cape Town, the whole time we were there and the whole drive back. He did a similar thing with an ABBA tape on a trip to the Drakensberg - as a result those places will always be entertained with that music and a desire to kill Dad ; )