How will our kids remember without reminders?

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August 18, 2019 at 9:44 am Quote #60756


Benjamin King: How will our kids remember without reminders?
For the Monitor
Published: 8/18/2019 7:45:13 AM

My office isn’t quite the typical lawyer’s office. I have some of the standard “ego wall” things, but frankly I don’t need daily reminders of the schools I attended or the jurisdictions that have admitted me.

I prefer decorating my surroundings with more personal things. A framed Shakespeare picture adorns one wall, a souvenir of a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. A “Mr. Burns” replica sits on my desk, representing a ritual shared by my paralegal and me to hiss menacingly “excellent” when we file a particularly devastating pleading. Mr. Burns sits aside a rubber ducky from the Colonnade Hotel, commemorating a presentation I once made there, and the rubber ducky nudges up against Blu on his skateboard from Rio – the bird terrified of flying who remains one of my favorite movie characters. Alongside Blu is a figurine of a horn player on Bourbon Street, together with replicas of the Liberty Bell and Chichen Itza. All physical mementos to commemorate experiences I want to remember.

Then there is the framed Dave Matthews Band poster, the Bon Jovi chair from the time I sat front row, and the Van Halen tote bag holding my diabetes medication, always slung somewhere.

I often work with people in my office. Sometimes they bring their kids. This particular 9-year-old’s eyes bugged out of his head when he spied the Van Halen tote bag.

“You like Van Halen?!?” he exclaimed. “You must be REALLY old!”

“Ebenezer!” the mother exclaimed. “That’s not nice!”

Of course, the kid’s name was not Ebenezer. But I can’t use his real name. And I get to pick his fake name for this column. So Ebenezer he is.

And really, I thought, from his perspective Van Halen might as well have been the house band for the dinosaurs. I flashed back to the early 1980s. A rainy Saturday afternoon finds 10-year-old Ben foraging through a closet in his childhood home where he finds his mother’s forgotten record collection. Among the records was a Led Zeppelin album, Led Zeppelin II from 1969. On this memorable day in around 1981, I carefully carried the record to Mom, as though I were an archaeologist carrying a relic unearthed from a distant era.

“Mom, I found this in the closet! Can I play it?” Mom examined my find. Her brow furrowed, probably as she struggled to remember exactly how bad the lyrics were to “The Lemon Song.” Then she probably figured, “This is a 10-year-old kid who already walks around the house shrieking, “Have a drink on me!” How much worse could the Led Zeppelin album be?

“Go ahead,” she said. I retreated to my parents’ living room, laid the needle to the record and was transported. Even though I don’t currently have a turntable, I still have and cherish that record, for the way it connected me to my mother’s past and introduced me to new possibilities.

So I knew something of the youthful thrill of discovering, and connecting with, music from the past.

“How do you know Van Halen?” I asked Ebenezer pleasantly, as I reflected on myself, playing Led Zeppelin II as a kid. Then I reflected on all the times I had bought those classic Van Halen albums, first on cassette, then on CD, then on remastered CD. I wanted to know this kid’s experience of discovering music.

“My mom streams some of their songs sometimes,” he replied. The ancient forty-something woman and I nodded at each other, me concealing for the time any concerns bubbling forth in my mind as to how her son was being raised in music appreciation.

“Which album is your favorite?” I asked. He gazed at me, bewildered. “I, II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, 1984, 5150, OU812 . . .,” I barked at him like a drill sergeant before he interrupted me to ask, in utter confusion, “Mr. King, what’s an album?”

The confusion would only mount when I explained to him the notion of owning the music of the artists you admired.

“Ebenezer,” I said to him, adopting a professorial tone. “What’s your favorite Van Halen song?”

“And the Cradle Will Rock” was this 9-year-old’s favorite. You have good taste, Ebenezer.

“So,” I explained, the accoutrements of my law office surrounding us as I took on the role of rock music professor, “bands like Van Halen released songs like ‘And the Cradle Will Rock’ not only as a single song but in a collection of songs known as an album. And we purchased those albums . . .”

The kid now interrupted me, beginning to become exasperated at my antiquatedness.

“You don’t need to buy it if you can stream it!” the kid exclaimed.

I wanted to explain to him about deep cuts, hidden tracks, liner notes – but he retreated to his phone. He was done with this Neanderthal.

We finished the meeting, and I looked about at my physical mementos, letting them trigger the memories they were meant to save. I thought of Led Zeppelin II, all those Van Halen albums, and all the other albums that evoke memories each time I pull them down from the shelf to play them. And I wonder what things a generation that shuns the physical will call upon to evoke memories of the music their parents loved, or that they loved as a child? Will the songs still be streaming? If the songs still stream, will the children of today be able to locate them in the infinite reaches of cyberspace without something (such as an album cover excavated from a closet) to trigger the memory? I hope so. As for me, I’ll keep my albums and souvenirs.

(Benjamin T. King of Concord is a partner in the Concord law firm Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C.)

August 19, 2019 at 1:16 pm Quote #60757


thank you for that excellent read

August 21, 2019 at 2:53 pm Quote #60761


Thanks Ron,that is an excellent point of view.It seems like a lot of things will disappear in the next 25 to 50 years and other technology will come to light.It’s almost frightning how things evolved in the last century and how it will go on faster and faster compared to what happened in the last 2000 years.


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