I can pinpoint the moment motherhood flooded me with a joy so unexpected I wept. These moments have continued to surprise me in the last eleven years but the first one, which took my post-natal euphoria and turbo-charged it, was memorable more for what happened directly afterwards. It was an every-mother moment, my four-week-old son smiled at me for the first time. If one were to try to recreate the moment for the big screen it would be replete with a chorus of angels, the whole scene would go soft-focus and be drenched in heavenly white light, with cutaways to the tear filled eye.
It was probably five minutes later that he smiled at the washing machine. The chorus of angels became silent and sharply drew in their breath, the heavenly white light became a buzzing fluorescent tube, life was once again thrown into sharp focus and I understood from that moment on, there would be drudgery punctuated by moments of indescribable joy.
Eleven years later the list has expanded; drudgery, hand wringing, anxiety, exasperation, overwhelming love and indescribable joy - an utterly sustainable balance.
Last night this bolt of joy come from sharing music. It started with a debate about Wolfmother, a bunch of nice young Australian boys who fancy a heavy lead guitar, a crashing high-hat dominating the percussion section, hammond organ solo riffs, and a wailing lead vocalist on a search and destroy mission for ecstatic high notes, ie: Led Zeppelin. When sandwiched between the uniformly boring hip-hop mish-mash that dominates radio play-lists it’s not surprising that an eleven-year-old-boy might see Wolfmother as the saviours of modern music and then be completely indignant when his clapped-out, washed-up, has-been parents respond to this epiphany by snorting DERIVATIVE!
What followed was an air-guitar face off. We opened with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, he volleyed with Wolfmother’s “Woman”. Burning with inspiration and nostalgia, an outstanding feature of which is poor memory, I countered with Led Zep’s “Battle of Evermore” and found myself playing air-mandolin, which sucks in comparison to the air-Fender Stratocaster. The coup de grace was delivered with Wolfmother’s “Mind’s Eye”, which enables the deft air-musician to show off his guitar, keyboard and drum skills.
I was gracious in defeat, stumping off to the bathroom for an anti-inflammatory after all that head banging, content that youth and vitality should shine over old age and cynicism, with the realization dawning on me that I was no longer letting him win like I used to at Scrabble, he could trounce me single-handedly.
Later that night, tucked in with a good anthology, I read the following by James Hamilton-Patterson “A drawback to getting older is that we find ourselves compulsively skipping to the end of things and experiences out of sheer familiarity. We know in advance how most conversations, people, jokes and regimes will turn out. And even when they’re a little different from expectation that, too, will fall within our bounds of recognized variables.”
Which sort of explains our feelings about Wolfmother, but not those indescribable bursts of joy.