Today I got a text from my daughter that said simply, “Sonnet 18.”
Guess they’re learning that one in class now (along with Hamlet and East of Eden, apparently. A real mixed bag!) “Easy peasy,” I texted back. “You’ve been able to sing that since you were three.”
“I what?” she responded.
Did she not remember? Oh, it is one of my most primal memories. I went on a quest.
For context let’s start here. A long, long time ago, before we had anything like iPhones and the idea of a “custom ringtone” was something that the height of personalizing your phone, mine was, of course, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour singing Sonnet 18. I mean, I know, right? How do you know that exists and not make it your ringtone? I love Shakespeare, I love Pink Floyd. It’s like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of music.
Then one day I caught my children singing it. How do you capture that moment? They called it “the song Daddy’s phone sings.” You can’t explain to your kids, not at that age, that they just elevated their Daddy’s universal joy. Sure I’d spent the first years of their lives talking about Shakespeare and “decorating their lives” with Shakespeare, but here was the first moment when I heard it come back to me, and I knew I was changing their lives as much as they’d just changed mine. Music to my ears, in infinitely more ways than one.
I sent that off to my daughter to show her friends at school, along with some pictures of what she looked like when she was 3, because that’s how old she is in that clip.
When she came home from school today and we were talking about it, she said, “Does that make you sad?”
I looked at her funny. “It’s literally been my purpose in life, I’ve literally spent eighteen years shaping your brain the way I think is best for you to go out into the universe.”
“YA THINK?” she said.
“Moments like this, when I know the plan worked, you think that makes me sad?”
“No,” she said, “not sad like that. Sad like, looking back at those memories, that were so long ago.”
I knew what she was saying. That thing we sometimes call “happysad.” She was right, of course. But I can get happysad about a lot of things. I needed a different answer.
“You know,” I told her, wondering if my voice would break, “I honestly don’t remember much about teaching you guys to ride a bike. But you know that scene in all the tv shows and movies, right? Where the parent is running behind with a hand on the seat, and the kid doesn’t have the training wheels anymore, and then suddenly the parent lets go and they’re doing it by themselves? That pride, that exhilaration?
That is exactly what it feels like. Every. Single. Time.”