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A mother-mortification moment

"Hit track 6," I told my son as soon as he fed his Fountains of Wayne CD into the car player. "I like that 'Valley Winter Song.' "

His sigh shook the little Toyota.

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Here's what happened: My kids have imposed their music on the car's airspace and driver for so long that I've grown rather fond of some of their bands. If you're trapped together long enough, you'll bond with Godzilla.

Not that there's any comparison, of course, but you get the idea.

I've driven to the grocery store so many times with Beck, Guster, and my new best friends - Fountains of Wayne - keeping me company that I consider all of us buddies. I even like to sing (or rather, bray) along.

"Please, Mom. Don't even start..." my 15-year-old pleaded when I cut loose while traveling down Main Street with my elbows dancing, torso twisting and head bopping to "Stacy's Mom."

"Oh, don't worry," I told him. "Our windows are rolled up. No one can hear me."

"Someone might see you," he hissed.

"Someone" refers to that subspecies - 15-year-old girls - who might be riding nearby with their own elbow-bouncing mothers.

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The louder I sang, the lower my son sank in the passenger seat. A few blocks later, he pulled the seat-release trigger and dropped into the back seat. I appeared to passersby to be singing and carrying on quite an animated conversation with the steering wheel.

This mother-mortification moment made me pause, though, because I had a flash of unsettling memory. In the 1970s, I walked into our house and caught my mother in the act of ironing to John Denver. It stopped me cold in my four-pound hiking boots, which resembled my hero's as closely as I could get in Joplin, Mo.

John Denver was my Fountains of Wayne. I wore plaid flannel shirts like John's, even in August. I blistered my fingertips until I mastered the three guitar chords required for "Leaving on a Jet Plane." I thumbtacked his posters to my bedroom walls.

My cousin Mary and I even stole away in my folks' Chevy en route to the Rocky Mountains until guilt and low fuel made us U-turn in the middle of Kansas.

It threw me off-key to discover that my own mother - for who knows how long - had been secretly cozying up to my music.

My reclining son mumbled something smart-alecky about how I should be listening to Lawrence Welk at my age. I didn't dare tell him that one melody could work its magic on two generations at once.

Later, I heard him relating the incident to his sister and talking about how Fountains was going to be on David Letterman.

"Ooh," I squealed. "When? We'll all have to watch it together."

They looked as though I'd asked them to dine on raw gizzard.

"Hey," I said, "maybe they'll have a concert nearby and we all can go. What do you think?"

Neither one answered, but I get the feeling that soon I'll be reclaiming my car's airspace and tuning in to my favorite NPR station without any back talk. And when no one else is listening, I may even pop in "Stacy's Mom."


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