More than any other time of year, summertime was made for music.
For as long as I can remember, summer had a soundtrack. I’m not talking about the background noises that let you know inherently that the season is upon us — the hum of a lawnmower, the buzz of mosquitoes, the whoosh of a sprinkler.
Rather, certain songs have a way of evoking memories just like a bite of fresh corn-on-the-cob or the smell of a barbecue.
I can vividly remember run-walking around the pool in my hometown while C+C Music Factory or Marky Mark play over the speaker system. Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” was how I started every day with as I moved from eighth grade into the new world of freshman year. The summer I graduated from high school was dominated by OutKast’s “ATLiens” album, so much so that catching even a few beats takes me to late-night bonfires and clandestine house parties.
Music is such an outsized part of my life that it was impossible that some of that wouldn’t rub off on Anthony.
The summer that he was born, I try to quiet his cries by holding him close and swaying to “Outfit” by Jason Isbell — a song fittingly about a father’s life advice to his son. Once he could walk, we’d dance around the kitchen to Beach Boys, Bloc Party and Bruce Springsteen.
Anthony has picked up on some of his favorites. He loves most things by Jimmy Buffett — which I’ve tried to keep as age-appropriate as possible — but his jam is “Fruitcakes,” with its catchy beat and danceable horn section.
Walking through our home, it’s not uncommon to hear a booming voice yell, “Hey! You! Get into my car!,” as Anthony shouts out the infectious opening lines to the Billy Ocean classic “Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car).”
When we’re playing baseball in the backyard or engaging in a water balloon fight around the house, everything from Otis Redding to Robert Earl Keen to Def Leppard filters out across the lawn.
I hope that the music we’re listening to now is tied to some of the memories he has of the summertime, and of the time that we’ve been able to spend together.
One particular song has caught my ear this summer. In early May, the Arcade Fire, a favorite band of mine over the years, released their new album, “We.” About halfway through the album is a tracked called “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid).” The song serves as a note of encouragement from lead singer Win Butler and instrumentalist Régine Chassagne, husband-and-wife members of the band, to their young son.
The lyrics offer guidance through the difficulties of childhood, teenage years, and ultimately, life itself. Butler warns about things like making and losing friends, finding the things that you’re good at and making mistakes.
I’ve played the song for Anthony. We’ve worked it into our regular music playlists. He likes the gentle intro, with it’s strummed guitar, that builds up to a soaring final verse.
But I think I appreciate it on a level that he can’t. There’s one line always gets me: “And if you can feel it, it’s fine. I’ll give you everything that’s mine. I’ll give you my heart and my precious time.”
The song is a reminder that for all of the things we can give our son, nothing is worth more than spending quality time with him. Whether that’s playing a board game, watching him ride his scooter or getting sweaty in a game of soccer, that time spent together is most important.
So my focus this summer is to do just that — even when I’m tired or don’t feel like playing — with a song in my heart.