I do! I do! I do so like this band Pearl Jam!
So you know I teach preschool. The kids in our care are Pre-K, which means they are either 4 or 5. Which means we deal with parents who range in age from mid-20's to mid-40's (and a few older). It didn't hit me how young some of the parents are until the day last year when we were discussing volcanoes.
"Miss Jenny! Have you ever seen a real live volcano erupt?" one of our budding seismologists inquired.
I answered in my teacher voice, "Well, no. But I do remember when Mount St. Helens erupted. That happened in another state but we all watched it on the news. It was crazy! I bet if you ask your parents tonight, they'll remember, too."
And then I did some quick math in my head (yes, I can do some quick math in my head. Just not algebra. Or fractions.). The girl who asked me was five. Her parents were some of our younger ones, probably 29, 30-ish.
I am 47. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, when I was 14. That meant this girl's parents hadn't even been BORN yet. This was one of the first times it really and truly occurred to me: I WAS NO LONGER ONE OF THOSE "YOUNG" PEOPLE. My middle-agedness smacked me upside the head with a resounding thwap.
Since then, I've taken note of the signs of youthfulness so many of my preschool parents exhibit. They don't look as tired or as soul-drained or as thick around the middle as many of my peers do. The women have natural hair colors, very few wrinkles and most days, it looks as though they've put some effort and thought into dressing themselves. They wear pants with zippers and fancy shoes that make my feet curl up like the Wicked Witch of the West's did when Dorothy got the ruby slippers.
And the dads: they are so much cooler looking than the dads in my demographic. They wear distressed jeans and shiny puffy jackets and knit caps. Don't get me wrong, there are oodles of men over 40 who wear these exact same items, but let's be honest: you can't hide life's wear and tear under a Patagonia jacket and some True Religion jeans. Some things just can't be denied, and age is one of them.
So anyhoo. One of our dads, who normally drops his child off in the mornings, was gone for a few days. His wife took over the drop-off and as we were making small talk she mentioned that her hubby was out of town, seeing his favorite band. We ladies all giggled as she sighed and hoped out loud that he was behaving himself. "Oh, of course he is!" we assured her.
A few days later, dad was back. Now, he's not one of our baby-faced daddies. This one has a little bit of mileage on him. God, no, he's not quite as old as me, but I'm thinking he probably remembers Mount St Helens. He hung out for a few minutes, making sure his kid washed hands, signed in...all the morning routines a preschooler has. I approached Dad and said, "So your wife told us you road-tripped to see a band? Which one?"
He looked at me the same way I must have looked at my mom when she screamed "THERE ARE NO WINDOWS ON MY COMPUTER! HOW CAN I OPEN ONE?". Or how my kids look at me when I say "What's the dealio with this "snapchat", Coolio?".
Slowly, he began explaining things to this here granny: "Well, there's this band called Pearl Jam..."
WAIT. HOLD ON. BACK THE TRUCK UP, SON. beep beep beep
"this band" called Pearl Jam? I know a little bit about this band called Peal Jam, boy.
I wanted to pull up one of our little tiny chairs and sit down and discuss this band called Pearl Jam. Mayhap I'd regale this Dad with the story of Lollapalooza '92, where a not-so-grizzled Miss Jenny danced in the dirt wearing cut offs, a black t-shirt and a Guatemalan purse from Pier One...first we rocked out to that band called Pearl Jam, then dreamy Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, then front freaking row for Ice Cube and THEN gazed up at the toned trunks and loins of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have hazy memories of bonding with strangers in line for the porta-potties and also of pretty much melting into a grungy puddle when I saw Eddie Vedder in the flesh, understanding that we were quite possibly sharing some of the very same oxygen molecules.
I wanted to tell this Dad all about how in my dreamy fantasy life I have a reunion with the boy I loved for 12 weeks one summer, and while we are first embracing and catching up I can hear the lyrics to "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" resounding through my mind. Hands down one of the best songs ever written and damn if I don't shed a tear every single time I hear it. I may or may not sing this song, loudly and badly, at the top of my lungs when I'm throwing myself a pity party now and again.
Maybe I could've told Dad that one of my crowning achievements as a parent was the day I realized that my two toddlers who were strapped in their carseats behind me were crooning "ooooh I'm still alive...." along with me and Pearl Jam. Raffi? Please. Baby Beluga's got nothing on those Seattle gods.
We could have rapped about one of the first dates I had with my future ex-husband, where we went to see the movie "Singles" and I gasped out loud when Eddie and Stone and the rest of Pearl Jam appeared on the big screen. And then I'd tell him that I bought the soundtrack and the movie and every once in a while I'll pop it into the DVD player and have a look at it just for shits and giggles.
And then I would have asked him, "For the love of Pete...how old do you think I am, man?"
As you know by now, I am not one to actually say out loud what I'm thinking at any given moment. I have these big dialogues in my head and then go home and write a lengthy blog post about it. So, no, I didn't tell Dad any of this. I think I said, "I'm so jealous!" or something equally brilliant and was satisfied to see the look of surprise in Dad's eyes when he realized that his child's frumpy middle aged preschool teacher with the gray roots actually knew who "this band" is.
I colored my hair later that night. While listening to some Pearl Jam, of course.