Yesterday, on my way to work Red Bird’s live version of “Ooh La La” popped up on my iPhone. The opening strums of acoustic guitar and the fist line, “Poor old granddad, I laughed at all his words,” made me stop in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. Embarrassingly enough, this happens to me more than I’d like to admit. I had heard the song before — first in Wes Anderson’s excellent “Rushmore” — and it’s one of those songs that I’ve been meaning to pick up, but I didn’t realize I actually owned it. Red Bird is an obscure folk “super group” and the cover is included on their live album – one of two that they’ve produced.
But anyway, back to the crying… Since hearing this yesterday, I’ve had a minor obsession with the song. I’ve downloaded the Faces album it appears on and listened to the original and the Red Bird cover at least a dozen times — it still causes me to well up. The sentiment of the song just hits me in the gut. The opening lines, combined with the jaunty’70′s rhythm, acoustic guitars and the refrain, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger. I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was stronger,” speak to where I am and who I am right now.
The current granddad in my life is my father, granddad to my two young sons, and they laugh at all his words, not in the rueful way the song talks about but in a joyful way because he is so silly and loving when he is with them. And I know, without getting into it, that certain events make these moments precious for him and for them and — because life carries on — they are, perhaps, fleeting. I want my sons to remember that laughter.i want them to remember laughing with granddad.
Also, I’ve reached that magical point in my life when I am an adult and I have all of the trappings that entails. Yes, yes, I know I’ve been an adult for quite awhile now, but right now is the time that what I do, what I say and what I do are making a lasting impression with my oldest son. That the memories he has of me now will remain with him forever. When kids are two, three and four years old, you can always tell yourself, “Oh they’ll forget about how I royally screwed this up someday,” when they reach six, you realize that’s not necessarily the case. So the idea of learning from all of the mistakes I’ve made and going back to a time when there was less responsibility with the knowledge I have now is appealing.
There’s always a part of me that wants to travel back in time, experience my younger days with the foresight of age, make better choices and try different paths. But here I am, time marches on faster than anyone can stand, I do the best I can and sing, “Ooh la la, ooh la la, I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger… ”