That Unforgettable Day When Your Teen Suddenly “Gets You”

I listen to classical music in the car which, Sam says, makes his ears bleed. It’s kind of a dance. We get in the car. I turn on “Classical New England”. Sam groans and changes the station. I hear “Ridin’ Solo,” and change the station again. Then I make a ridiculous, fictional statement about a pop celebrity, preferably a rap star.
“Did you know that Little Wayne –”


“Did you know that Little Wayne and the one he went to jail with, the one with a T in his name. Mr. T – ”
“T.I. And they didn’t go to jail together.”
“Did you know they both grew up listening to classical music?”
“That’s not true.”
“It’s true. I read it on Rhapsody. And did you know that Lady Gaga went to medical school?”
“That’s not true.”
“You’re right. She went to Julliard.”

He changes the station to JYY and looks out the window, and I turn the station back to classical and tell him if he listened for just two minutes he’d be a fan, and he tells me you can’t do that because with a classical music station, there’s so much silence before and after the song, when nobody says or does anything, you don’t even know if the radio is on which is why it makes his ears bleed and he switches the station to 94.1 where they play California Gurls once every twenty-five minutes. I ask a question like, “Do they spell Girls with a “u” because of copyright issues with the Beach Boys?” He looks at me as though he’s not sure we know each other.

[More on what parents need to remind themselves of when they have a teen here.]

And yet, if he dominates the radio in the car, he’s made no attempt to change the station in the house, where classical music plays 24/7.

At dinner one night, he looked up and said, “I like this one. What is it?”
Claire de Lune by Debussy,” I said.
He nodded thoughtfully, then told me something about baseball which I understood after he drew diagrams on the back of many envelopes.

Now that Sam has a license and a vehicle, we’re rarely in the car together and I can listen to as much classical music as I want. Every so often, I feel the tug that comes with knowing my last child is home for only a year plus. When that happens, I scan the radio stations or turn to a disc Sam left behind, select one of his favorites, and listen until the light changes.

Maybe someday, a year and change from now, when he’s far away, Sam will feel a similar kind of tug and if he’s alone, maybe he’ll listen to a classical music station until the light changes and if he’s lucky, maybe he’ll hear Clair de Lune and remember that it’s Debussy.

Probably he won’t remember the Debussy part. But maybe, soon after this happens, he’ll call home to talk about baseball.

And I will take notes, and remember all I can.

About Susan Bonifant

Susan Bonifant was an essayist, novelist and mother of four grown children who wrote about life after the last college drop off. Her work appeared in The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, The Concord Monitor and
(Susan is greatly missed 1958-2020.)

Susan lives with her husband and writer-cat, Gus, in Hopkinton, NH. Visit her blog, "Worth Mentioning," at

Read more posts by Susan

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