Ten years from now, he’ll be thanking me.
He’ll be 22 then. He’ll be in his last year at a more prestigious and certainly more liberal university than my own. He’ll major in architecture and minor in something cool, like philosophy. He’ll have an amazing sense of personal style, but he won’t fit under metro sexual stereotypes; he’ll be that guy who wears beanies and fleece with a good-fitting pair of jeans. He’ll be remarkably attractive. He’ll swear by dark beers and know how to drink to a point of good, buzzed conversation in hole-in-the-wall bars. He’ll be a vicious flirt without being a filthy whore. He’ll compliment women on things he notices without hesitation – knowing how important it is to them. He’ll smile contagiously. He’ll only laugh at jokes that are genuinely funny. He’ll play videogames in bum time but prefer outdoor activities like a game of pick-up or a bit of ultimate frisbee. He’ll enjoy reading for leisure. He’ll be the center of attention when in a big crowd and he’ll be a quiet observer within more intimate group dynamics. He’ll be the voice of a good, fresh practical joke and at the same time the voice of utterly necessary reason. He’ll wink to make people feel special. He’ll show a cool confidence that people envy. He’ll vote issues – not parties. He’ll organize things alphabetically but will not have a day planner. He’ll like to cook breakfast foods.
He’ll be amazing. (Because of me.)
He’ll be a music snob and play sweet classics on guitar because once upon a time, his older sister saved him from Toby Keith and Ashlee Simpson. He’ll be cool because she gave him a three disc anthology of rock and roll music that influenced her earlier years. He’ll remember the birthday card saying “You’re Welcome” on it instead of Happy Birthday. He’ll refer to her as Doc and she’ll call him McFly to joke about her freakish plan to predict his future and plant the seed before he knew what character development was.
And he’ll be thanking me for ensuring his well-rounded development. He’ll write me a letter of gratitude for a gift I gave him on this twelfth birthday knowing that I gave him the gift in anticipation of the card. He’ll enclose a CD compilation of bands that he’s into and pick out the songs he knows I’ll like best.
I’ll tell him the story about Dad looking at me with proud disapproval because the third track of the compilation was AC/DC’s “Big Balls”. I’ll explain to him that I knew who Rob Halford was before I knew who Paula Abdul was; and subsequently, I ended up being that chick at the bar who can pick a song that doesn’t suck. I’ll gloat because my taste in music impressed Dad enough to pay for my ticket to several rock concerts. I’ll tell him the real reason I was inspired to give the gift of music.
I’ll say the following:
“See, I was studying for a psychology exam, and we needed to know the eight stages of Erikson’s stage theory. I was trying to find a mnemonic device to remember Stage 4, which is Industry versus inferiority, or more popularly phrased as ‘Am I competent or am I worthless?’, by using you as an example. A light bulb appeared in my head. I remembered a conversation we had about you thinking Toby Keith was ‘the bomb’ and me wanting to kick you out of the car. This stream of thought resulted in a fear that you’d grow to be a totally awkward dork with bad taste in music. So I went home and in a panic, set up play lists of music to transform you. To guarantee that when you got to Stage 5, you’d answer the question ‘Who am I and where am I going?’ with a resounding ‘Awesome, and I’m going to kick ass somewhere’. I picked older and newer music and stayed away from bands in the one-hit-wonder category. I made sure to give you harder and softer rock. I planted some femme rock in there to keep you on queue with your love for women. I called friends with good taste in music for back-up on some bands and told Dad. Dad wanted you to get way from that Toby Keith crap just as much as I did. So on your twelfth birthday, I guaranteed your spot in the cosmos and ensured all who have a stake in your success that you will benefit from rock and roll music instead of bad pop music without substance. I wanted you to be a man of substance. One who earned respect for being reasonable about talent and with the ability to judge quality versus quantity. I wanted to harness your appreciation for art and use it to inspire you. I knew you’d be the type to listen to your headphones and go for walks to think. And that you’d keep playing the guitar. Of course I anticipated that we’d get to share music as a part of our bond. Do you think that’s totally wacko?”
“Yeah, but I still love you. Even though you knew I’d contagiously sing ‘Big Balls’ in the halls at school jokingly and get a detention for it.”
And I’ll smile. Knowing it was me.