The above is part of a conversation between my father and I. It’s one of the many conversations we’ve been having for — well, probably the last fourteen years or so. The topic for this particular conversation? Top Five Guitarists of All Time. Though the last two members of said list have varied over the past fourteen or so years, the top three remain set: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck. No question. Sometimes, as above, Jerry Garcia rounds out the list. The day before these texts, it was Carlos Santana. Jonny Greenwood has made an appearance, as has Slash, who earned his place solely for the moment when he wails on his guitar outside a church in the “November Rain” video.
There are other conversations with other lists, too: Top Five Albums of All Time; Top Five Non-Beatles Non-Bob-Dylan Albums of All Time, which was invented because Top Five Albums of All Time became Top Beatles and Bob Dylan Albums of All Time; Top Five Albums of the 60′s, 1968, the 70′s, the 80′s, the 90′s, the first ten years of the 2000′s; Top Five Grunge Songs of Teenage Angst; Top Five Songs a Hipster Would Listen to on His Mac at Starbucks; Top Five Most Depressing Songs of All Time (I argue for “Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father” or “Sixty Years On;” my dad argues for “Sam Stone”). Sometimes there are playlists, like the challenge we give each other every Christmas to make the most depressing Christmas-related song mix ever — Leonard Cohen’s “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and Joni Mitchell’s “River” always make an appearance — or like the collection of Songs That Go To Eleven, to be played in case of a coma — George Harrison’s “Wah Wah,” Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” We’re always on the look-out for new songs, new lists.
Today is Fathers Day*, so it’s appropriate that I’m sitting here making a mental list of the Top Five Most Awesome Elton John Songs From Before He Gave Up The Sunglasses Thing. Here’s the thing: I used to go straight to the funny cards for Fathers and Mothers Day, which has occasionally gotten me into some trouble (see the Old Woman With A Mom Tattoo Card I gave my mother when I was in college — needless to say, this was also the Poorest of All Poor Decisions Card). Lately, though, I’ve spent a longer amount of time in the serious card section of the store, reading card after card until I find the perfect one.
When I do decide on a serious card, it usually says something about being grateful for what I’ve learned from my mom or my dad. The writer in me, or maybe just the writing teacher in me, always screams for specifics: what exactly did you learn? Show, don’t tell!
I’ve been thinking a lot about that today, and I’m starting to think that the What Exactly lies in the conversations I’ve had with my father over the years, and the similar conversations I’ve had with my mother. It isn’t just the content of those conversations, though it is certainly important that my father taught me how to appreciate a truly bad-ass guitar solo — it’s the fact that my father let me in on them, and continues to let me in on them. It’s the fact that he wanted to teach me, wanted to talk to me, wanted to share with me what he loves in the hopes that I’d love it to. It’s the fact that these conversations are what taught me love, what teach me love, which show me again and again what it means: to talk and think and talk again, to listen, to always listen, to grow and change and still celebrate what stays the same, to celebrate the fact that we love, and that in talking to each other about what we love, we show our love for each other.
*NOTE: You may be thinking to yourself, geez, Emma, good job writing a Fathers Day post and not a Mothers Day post. Geez. Two things: one, that’s a lot of geez. Two, I didn’t write a Mothers Day post because, well, I was on a plane on my way home for Mothers Day, and then I was too busy eating cupcakes.