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Song cycle



Like many of the other ponytailed, loose-toothed kids who live in my Chapel Hill neighborhood, my daughter, age 6, takes piano lessons with Miss Penny, who lives just five houses down. As she sits on the elevated bench, her fingers wrapped around an imaginary ball, learning the notes and tunes, I sit nearby, daydreaming. Music marks my life as I hope it will mark hers: happily and casually, with rock and cold nights warmed by pilfered beer ...

CONNECTICUT: It all starts with soft rock (The Carpenters, John Denver, Julio Iglesias, the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon) and progresses. Listening to Casey Kasem. On the bus, sweet dreams were made of this. We're she-bopping, but we don't yet know what it means. We go crazy in my friend's basement. "Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh no, let's go." Wanting to slow dance to "Hard Habit to Break." Wailing "you may be my lucky star, but I'm the luckiest by far" in the back of my Dad's pickup with everything I had, no safety device holding me down. My first mixtape from a potential boyfriend: "Ripple in still water," sang The Grateful Dead. "Slip slidin' away," answered Paul Simon. That boy smoked pot. He was cool.

INDIANA: Poseur. Yes, I like U2, a name I remember carved into an old friend's spiral notebook. "Sunday Bloody Sunday"? No, I don't know that song. No cable, but my new neighbors had it. Enchanted, I watched two Technicolor weirdos slap each other to "I feel so extraordinary/ something's got a hold on me." There's a brown-eyed girl on the way to the Lake Michigan dunes. My friend Susie starts to sign her name Siouxsie. "Take me down to the paradise city, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty," blasts as I escape to the Pizza Hut parking lot so my miniskirted friend can make out with her boyfriend. Hey, it's Indiana, and we're dancing in underage clubs. New Order—again! Every time I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray. Oh, and I had a bout with reggae—Toots and the Maytals, to be exact.

COLLEGE: My Replacements-loving husband-to-be woos me with Soul Asylum and Social D. It was a fine horse he rode in on. We eventually move on. He has a band, and they open for bigger bands.

NEWLY MARRIED, NEW JERSEY: As we drive into Manhattan, passing the Statue of Liberty, are we really listening to the Butthole Surfers on an FM dial that's not tuned to a college station? We had our first out-of-body Squirrel Nut Zippers experience at The Knitting Factory and a year or so later in Hamburg. And so the music adventure continued ...

At the end of each lesson, my daughter bows and scavenges for the best goody in the basket. I see her smile and continue to dream that she'll make music that will dot the memories of other people's lives, too—at least her own.

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