It was a red-letter day when our family got our first CD player. On Christmas 1992, we opened up our presents one at a time like normal, but at the end my dad said we weren’t done yet. He pulled out presents from “Santa,” one for each of him, my sister and myself, and two for mom. Mom opened her big one first, and it was said player. It was black and clunky, to be a part of our old-school stereo setup. Back in those days the pattern was still to have a fancy stereo receiver wired to separate speakers and a sub-woofer, placed at strategic equidistant points in the room; then you had separate turntable, cassette and CD units. They all stacked on top of each other, with the turntable going on top.

Even though it only played one disc (I didn’t know more were possible at that time), that was a big leap forward for me. My changeover from cassettes to CDs had the same timing as my entrance into adolescence. My body had been changing for a year or so; I was in the thick of that awkward, limbs-too-long phase which heralds the angsty and anti-social behavior that nearly every teenager exhibits. I was aware at that time of the uncomfortable transition from boy to man, and in a way the transition from tapes to CDs mirrors that.

But back to Christmas. After the CD player, my sister, father and I opened our gifts. I don’t remember what my sister got, but my dad gave himself Born In the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen, and I got the Spin Doctor’s Pocket Full of Kryptonite. My mom opened her other present last. It was the right height and width for another CD, but the length was much longer. The reason was that he had given her the entire studio discography of Simon & Garfunkel, and also The Concert In Central Park. She almost cried, and responded the very next year by giving my dad 12 different James Taylor albums on CD, including the 2 disc Live that had come out only 3 months before.

My mother had some unusual musical habits. In addition to Simon & Garfunkel, she loved Michael Card and Peter, Paul & Mary. She also had a deep love of the movie soundtrack to Godspell, but didn’t care for any of the Broadway versions. But more than anything else, she loved hymns. Church was more and more a struggle for her, especially when I became an adult, since church was focusing more on modern praise music and less on hymns. She just passively if unhappily rolled with the punches; she could have easily been one of those stuffy old people in the back of the church who wrinkled her nose every time a praise chorus was played, and thought drums were of the devil. For her, what was really going on was that she was very sad to see an essential element of her church experience fall by the wayside. You have to know her pretty well to get this, but music is very important to her. While she doesn’t have a very broad base of knowledge to draw from, and that knowledge has no reference to time, she thinks very deeply about her music. She sinks into it like a swimming pool. Be it nature or nurture, I do the same thing.

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