“Admit it,” said my friend Kevin, gesturing as if a grand proposition were forthcoming. “Admit that you like listening to The Pulse.” He was referring to SiriusXM Radio’s channel 15, The Pulse, playing “hits from the 2000s and today.”
I hedged. “Well—”
“Admit that when you’re flipping through your favorite channels, your Bridge and 70s on 7 and 80s on 8 and Classic Rewind, you also check to see what’s on The Pulse. Admit that you do it when Martin isn’t even in the car. Admit it!”
Kevin phrased the accusation exactly right. I had no grounds for denial.
“Fine,” I said. “It’s true. I check what’s on The Pulse. I like some of the songs on The Pulse. Leave me alone.”
I was out to dinner with Kevin and his wife, Stacey. We were in Baltimore attending Natural Products Expo East, a tradeshow and conference for organic and natural foods and beverages. Kevin and Stacey also have a son recovering from autism. I was telling them (1) the good news that Martin is finally taking an interest in pop culture, and (2) the bad news that this new interest means he insists on listening to The Pulse in my car, when he used to be perfectly happy with The Bridge, “mellow classic rock and ’70s folk rock.”
Ah, pity the child of older parents. Martin’s cousin Mandy was born two-and-a-half months after he was. Mandy’s mother, my sister, is 14 years younger than I am. When it comes to pop culture, I’m thinking Mandy has it a lot better than poor Martin.
Over the past year, Martin has started noticing what his peers are doing, and wanting to do the same. In the spring, when the weather warmed, I tried sending him to school without a jacket. Despite the sunshine, he insisted on wearing a jacket. Why? “Because my friends are still wearing their jackets to school.” I wrote about when Martin wanted to carry a backpack to the JCC because the kids who came from school without parents had backpacks. Martin has never seen Despicable Me, but he collects toy Minions. He’s never played Angry Birds, but he loves anything with an Angry Bird decoration.
One weekend over the summer, Martin’s classmate Jack stayed at our home. Jack, evidently, was much better versed in current music and television than Martin. Friday afternoon, as we drove from school, Jack started requesting artists and songs. Taylor Swift. Maroon 5. Duran Duran, in time-warp. At a loss, I searched the satellite stations until I found The Pulse. When we arrived home, Jack asked to watch the Disney Channel and knew just which programs he liked. Martin, whose previous television experience ranged from Rangers games to U.S. Open tennis to continuous loops of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, eagerly watched Disney Channel too. Monday morning, I drove both boys back to school. From the backseat resounded not one but two voices: “Taylor Swift! We want Taylor Swift!” Since Jack’s sojourn in neustra casa, Martin has become a connoisseur of all things Pulse and Disney Junior.
Which means that I—who previously resided happily ensconced in the 1970s and ’80s—have listened to a lot of Pulse music, too. And fine, I admit it. I have encountered songs I like. Nick Fradiani’s “Beautiful Life.” Imagine Dragons‘ “I Bet My Life.” Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness’s “Cecilia and the Satellite.” I’ve even heard a few lyrics that resound with our autism journey. In “Uma Thurman,” Fall Out Boy’s frontman Patrick Stump sings, “I slept in last night’s clothes and tomorrow’s dreams // But they’re not quite what they seem.” Heck, that’s me. That’s me every day.
I guess that’s part of having a kid: catching up on pop culture. It’s a totally typical thing.
We blaze the night
With all we’ve been waiting for
All this time
Reaches such great heights
Gives us just one perfect night
To say oh what a beautiful life
Oh what a beautiful life.