When I was 15, two-thirds of the way into a miserable sophomore year at West Albany High School in Albany, Oregon, I flew to San Juan Capistrano, California to live with our family friends, the Pitskers, and finish out the school year. I had never been to southern California before, and I was entranced. It was warm and sunny, which contrasted greatly to the soggy, cold Willamette Valley winter I’d emerged from. My first full day there, my friend, Amy, and a friend of hers and I rode horses all day in wide, flat, dry irrigation ditches. Orange trees grew in their yard, and kids wore flip-flops to school in March.
One of the ways I demonstrated my deep pleasure at being in this tropical paradise was to play the Beach Boys’ double-album set, Endless Summer. Yes, I played it endlessly. I’m not kidding. Every day. Several times a day. Something about the boppy beat, the twangy guitars, and the bright harmonies captured southern California for me, and the hope I felt about my life just being there. I only stopped (or at least toned it down) when I heard one of Amy’s brothers – Paul or maybe Jack – say to their mom, “Why does she keep playing that?” Polly made some terribly compassionate reply, but I realized I’d been annoying others who might not want to hear “Surfin’ USA” one more time.
Fast forward 37 years to this morning: snow day, no school. I have already heard “I Get Around” three times and “Help Me, Rhonda” twice. But I don’t think Paul or Jack would feel vindicated. I love it. I love hearing the songs again, I love remembering all the different ways those songs meant something to me when I was a teenager, and more than that, I love that they mean something to my kids right now. I’m having a fresh new experience, hearing the songs through fresh ears that haven’t been hearing these songs for 40-plus years. It is one of the great gifts of having children: something old becomes new again.