I spent today home with a very sick child – my oldest boy had a terrible allergic reaction last night while at his track meet, his eye swollen so badly that I was convinced he had taken a punch to the face. Must be something in the Fairdale air. But whatever it was, today’s prescription was a day of indoor rest and Benadryl every four hours, and that meant lots of couch time for both of us, which is its own kind of wonderful medicine.
My boy has always been a lover of classic rock. He knew the words to “Don’t Stop Believin’” around the same time he learned “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” His first CD was a Beatles best-of. He is currently emphatic about teaching his five-year-old brother the words (and proper inflection) of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
So now, when he comes to me with a newfound interest in Pink Floyd, I find myself perplexed about how to handle this. Because Pink Floyd in general, and “The Wall” in particular, represents a place where my Young Self and my Future Self reluctantly gave a fond farewell. This was the 2-cassette set that I wore down to threads in my Mercury Zephyr while trying to make sense of the things that were happening around me. It was the lifeline that got me through high school, and although its positive effects were so very welcomed in my heart, I’m not sure I would want anyone I cared about to follow me through this particular path.
But anyway. Pink Floyd. My boy is fascinated by “The Wall,” and of course he’s far too young to watch the movie, because most of the movie’s sadness will make no sense to someone as young as him. You have to have a few years behind you to understand how much things can hurt, and thank god, he just isn’t there yet. But he’s seen that “we don’t need no education” scene where the kids are dropped into the meat grinder, and he wants to know more, and he’s insatiably curious about what the hell this movie is.
So we got to talking about Pink Floyd today, and I got to thinking about this scene and this song, which I think is one of the most perfect things ever committed to film, and we watched it together. He watched it from the perspective of the boy. I watched it from the perspective of both the boy and the father, but primarily the latter, and it still makes my Young Self’s heart hurt and my Future Self want to be a better person. Either way it hurts like hell.
This is one of the most vivid anti-war anthems ever. Lyrics are below the video. They are some of the most perfectly written lyrics you will ever read.
It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black ’44
When the forward commander was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn
And the Generals gave thanks as the other ranks
Held back the enemy tanks for a while
And the Anzio Bridgehead was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives
And kind old King George sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone
It was, I recall in the form of a scroll
With gold leaf and all
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed with his own rubber stamp
It was dark all around
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free
And no one survived from the Royal Fusiliers Company Z
They were all left behind
Most of them dead, the rest of them dying
And that’s how the High Command
Took my daddy from me