Of Fathers and Son and iPods
by Todd Smith
A few years ago, I bought my son Murphy an iPod for Christmas. Technology, specifically hand held music devices and cell phones, had advanced so quickly in the last couple of years that I’d fallen a bit behind. So, I foolishly thought that by buying Murphy the iPod we could cross my sea of idiocy together and have some solid father and son bonding time, connecting my vinyl record and CD past to his digital present through the world of music.
As I wrapped the jewel box that the iPod came in, I imagined that we would spend endless hours together listening to my music. Then we would huddle around our computer, cozying up to it like it was a campfire, and comb through the iTunes store and hand pick all the songs that I suggested. There would be high-fives, maybe some riotous air guitaring, and more than likely a gluttonous romp through my wife’s lavish holiday cookie tray.
I selfishly wanted Murphy to like the music that I liked. This is because I was baptized into our local Twin Cities music scene at an early age and it gave me a tremendous amount of civic pride. When my dad shared Bob Dylan with me and my super cool siblings introduced me to the shambolic genius of The Replacements and the sonic ground war of Husker Du, these two bands and many others let me know where I was from. I was raised in the city of Minneapolis, the City of Lakes, and through rock and roll I learned to be proud of our snow, our skyways, our Grain Belt, our stars on the wall at First Avenue, and our scrappy underdogness. All of this helped me grow my own musical roots into my beloved hometown and I wanted Murphy to feel that, too. But, god bless him, he politely ignored all of this sentiment.
Murphy had other plans, though. After politely sitting down and listening to some of my favorite songs, he went ahead and torpedoed the whole bonding operation by ignoring all of my suggestions and bought and downloaded his own music. For the record, his music selections sounded somewhere between the spastic drumming of inebriated orangutans and Richard Simmons greatest hits. I naturally assumed that our musical taste pallets would be a wee bit different, but, seriously, I’m pretty sure there are prisoners somewhere that are being tortured by the very music my son willingly purchased and put on his iPod.
But then I realized that I had committed a classic holiday gift giving foul: The gifts we give our loved ones are sometimes not at all about them and are instead all about us.
How many times have you given a gift to a relative or a friend that you decided they had to have just because you had one, too, without stopping to think if they ever asked for or needed the item in the first place? Whether you are giving a gift to your children, grandchildren, spouse, or best friend doesn’t really matter: We all have at some point given a gift that we thought our loved ones should have and it wasn’t even close to something they actually wanted. In my case, I tried giving my son the gift of all of my music and never once considered that he might, you know, want his own songs on his iPod.
A few days after Christmas, when I depressingly felt that my son had succumbed to the cheesy dark side of gyrating pop music, Murphy heard a wild fiddling song from Duluth based band Trampled by Turtles on 89.3 The Current and his ears perked up. Then, with a muttering of six simple words, my son unknowingly gave me one of the best presents that I’ve ever received.
“Hey, dad, I like this song,” he said.