Throwing Caution to the Walkman

I have said before that sometimes the most wonderful things happen in the course of our normal daily activities.  I have also spoken of music as being a gift, and one of the most important gifts we can receive (if we are willing to accept it) is that of freedom.  Not in the bigger political sphere – though music has been and continues to be a powerful tool in that regard – but in the personal sphere.

It starts out with a simple walk…like we do almost everyday, a walk with the dog through our little neighborhood.  On this particular day we encountered a young fellow doing the same, only he was having just a little more fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love tossing Amelia up on my back and heading out with Betsy, but this boy, who looked to be somewhere between the age of 11 and 14, had something I didn’t.  He had a massive pair of headphones and a walkman (ok, it was probably an Ipod), and whatever music was being pumped through that system, he was happily and unabashedly rocking out to it as he jigged and sauntered down the sidewalk, utterly unconcerned with how he might appear to any passers by.


Alas, my tried and true cassette walkman is long gone.

He did look a little goofy, but he clearly didn’t care, something all the more extraordinary given the fact that this slightly geeky looking kid (and I use that term affectionately) was likely heading into what might be considered one of the tougher phases in life – teenagerhood.  A phase that could potentially be more difficult for kids who unabashedly boogie down in public to music no one else can hear.

It was a beautiful thing to see, partly on it’s own merit and partly because, not only can I relate to that kid, I kind of AM that kid (or chick, or woman or Mom, pick your label).  I am that girl getting down in the driver’s seat of her car at the red light, clapping and chair dancing along with Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” (yeah, that just happened) or The Police’s “Every Little She Does is Magic“.

And in case you think it’s just the oldies that get me going, think again.  All it takes is the right combination of beat, melody and maybe a catchy hook.  Indeed, the dog walkers at the beach got an eyeful just last week when I had a rare trip down, with the dog and without the child. Like my young comrade, I brought my very own Ipod – a notable occurrence as it is something I can’t do with Amelia along for the ride since toddlers and headphones don’t mix well, at least not if you want functioning headphones at the end of the day.  The dreary day was instantly transformed as my Ipod randomly shuffled onto Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” and this 40-something girl started bouncing down the beach. Betsy thought my behavior meant we were wrestling and I have no idea what the dog walkers thought, but the point of all this is that I didn’t care anymore than that boy on the sidewalk.

Some songs just stop me right in my tracks, like Toots & the Maytals’ “Bam Bam”  (especially the version with Shaggy).  I have that tune on a playlist I made for running (she writes nostalgically), and when it comes on, I  just dance in place right there on the sidewalk as if I was at the club (assuming I could remember what the inside of a dance club actually looked like).

When we allow the alchemy between rhythm, melody, brain and body to relieve us of our inhibitions, something wonderful happens.  Luckily for me, the result isn’t akin to Elaine on Seinfeld, though I like to think that even if it was I still wouldn’t care.  I’m sure that a scientist could talk about hormones and endorphins, but all I know is that when the right song comes on, allowing yourself to cut loose and rock out regardless of who’s watching feels great.  The freedom that comes from letting go of that judgement – by others and by ourselves – is powerful and joyful and I will work hard and play hard and boogie hard to pass that on to my daughter.

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