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Everybody plays the fool...

Byline: Tena Zapantis

COLUMN: Guest Columnist

The jury is still out for me on the whole nature versus nurture theory in raising children, but I have to believe at least some of a parent's attributes, good and bad, get passed on to our offspring. Hopefully none of my three angels will have my sense of direction, but I have to say my love of music has been contagious, and they have caught it for sure. I have always loved listening to music, any and all kinds of music. My iPod has a wide selection of classical, oldies, top 40, country, and yes, even rap.

One afternoon, when my iPod was charging, I borrowed my son Paul's to go walking with. I was pleasantly surprised as I walked along listening to music from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. I was serenaded by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I picked up my pace to Elvis and Johnny Cash. I melted listening to the ballads of Andre Bocelli. Wait a minute; this iPod belongs to my 17-year-old son? Wasn't I just scolding him 10 minutes before I left the house for not picking his dirty clothes up off the floor? Didn't I doubt my credentials as a parent this past weekend when I couldn't get through to him that a midnight curfew was plenty late enough for a boy of his age?

He even had a folder of Christmas music. There I was on a brisk spring afternoon in March, walking down the street with tears welling in my eyes listening to "Christmas Shoes." My son actually listens to "Christmas Shoes?" My work is done, I thought, I am not sure how, or when, it happened, but somehow I managed to raise a good kid.

Paul and I went to an Elvis impersonator show this past year. The fact that this 17-year-old dared to be seen in public with his mother is a testament to his love for music. He was definitely the youngest one in the crowd, but enjoyed that show more than anyone who was there that night. I was privy to overhear a conversation he had with the woman behind us about favorite Elvis songs, and memorable movies. He was speaking to this woman like he was an Elvis expert, quoting song titles and movie lines like he had seen them all.

Now I know what he is doing all those hours on the computer. The impersonator also did a Tom Jones segment that he enjoyed as well. For the next week, Paul and I were breaking out in song to "It's Not Unusual," while the rest of the family just rolled their eyes.

I think listening to songs from different eras is a definite history lesson. The lyrics from older songs are unusual, and you can tell they were written in a time when the world was a different place. Even though phrases and times have changed, the universal themes have remained the same. People wrote songs when they were sad, when they were happy, when they had been hurt, and when they had been blessed. Of all the things that have changed over the years, a singer singing about a broken heart is something we can all relate to. I have been uplifted, inspired, and consoled by music in my life more times that I can recall.

A certain song comes on the radio and just makes my day. It's the sappy romantic side of me, something I hate to admit, I may have passed on to my son. Paul gets teased a lot for his unusually mature taste in music, but another commonality we have, he has thick skin. He just keeps on enjoying the music he loves. I remember helping him dissect Billy Joel's classic song "We Didn't Start the Fire." Whether or not you like the song, it proved to be a great history lesson for my son, and began his infatuation for the piano man.

One night, Paul was sitting at the kitchen table doing his homework, listening to music, when the Spinner's classic "Everybody Plays the Fool" came on. In his naive, deep voice, Paul asked me a question that had me taken aback: "What do they mean by that, Mom, "Everybody plays the fool?"

I surprised myself; it is not too often that a question renders me speechless, but I was. I hesitated, thinking about all the things that I could tell him. Reminiscing through times of my own naivity left me broken hearted. Times I have been lied to, times when I had to endure the betrayal of false friends, times when I gave my heart to someone I thought I could trust, only to play the fool and have it broken.

I didn't know how to explain that to him, so I simply said that someday, someone he trusted would fool him, it would really hurt, and he would understand what that line meant. As his mom, and the woman in this world who loves him most, I pray it is a lesson he never learns.

Tena Zapantis is a Clinton resident and a member of the Clinton School Committee.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 28, 2008
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