we drove to New Brunswick last night to Oscar’s grandparents’ house. and the whole length of the four hour car trip (five when you count the hour spent breastfeeding him in a gas station parking lot), we played music. not kid music, though we’ve been given some wonderful children’s CDs. our music. i confess – we are actively trying to brainwash his tiny eardrums.

Oscar does not come from what one would call musical stock. to my great sorrow, i am as tone-deaf as a stump. at my fifth grade provincial music festival, my choir teacher suggested that rather than sing out loud, i merely mouth along with the melody so no one else would be thrown off key by my warbling drone. Dave’s not much better. he does occasionally channel a great Debbie Harry falsetto, but is otherwise nearly as musically challenged as i. yet we love songs. i know the words to everything. and while we secretly hope that Oscar is carrying some recessive “carry that tune” genes somewhere in his makeup, if not, we still want to expose him to the joy that music can bring even to the tuneless. so we’ve been constructing a soundtrack – a musical primer – for his edification.

i believe that – if you listen to the words – music can teach all you need to know about the human condition. and i also believe that the music a person learns early on – the music eventually remembered from childhood, no matter if it matches later tastes or not – will shape that person’s sense of not only what music can be, but what it means to be human. so Oscar can get down with his bad self on gangsta rap and pop fluff later, if he wants to, should those genres mysteriously thrive. but for now, he’s being groomed into a groovy little folkie, with bardic ballads and funky sounds all around. i secretly believe this may be the best way to pass on wisdom about life and love and the universe and everything: subliminally, with a pleasant back beat.

this theory comes straight from my own experience. my poor mother wonders how, with her fine upstanding example as model, i grew up to be such an amoral vagrant. i barely watched TV as a kid, and i read only Anne of Green Gables and The Velveteen Rabbit and other umimpeachable classics of children’s literature. however, the old stereo in our apartment got a lot of use throughout my youngest years, and i blame Kris Kristofferson for my adult ambivalence about social and moral conventions. in kindergarten, i got lost at Kmart. thinking my mother would hear me and find me if i sang – even then i sensed my voice was…uh…attention-getting – i wandered blindly through the aisles, belting out my favourites. i was eventually located in the menswear section giving an offkey rendition of “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” i thought it was written for Kristofferson’s teddy bear.

i’m hoping by the time Oscar reaches that age, he can wow the Kmart shoppers with all umpteen verses of Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”. or maybe a little Leonard Cohen. at the very least, i hope he learns that beauty and joy and sorrow have a place in all human lives, and are wonderful to express in song. even if that song comes out a little flat.