Going through the galaxy with grandkids

Opinion: John Rice

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

A great thing about being a grandparent is getting a do-over raising kids. We know what didn't work when we were raising our kids, so we don't repeat the same mistakes with the grandkids. Unless you're a stubborn guy like me.

I had tried to hook my kids on classical music, the way my parents had hooked me. I took them to Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts. They liked going downtown and dining at fine restaurants. They just didn't like the concert part.

This didn't stop me from taking my 8-year-old grandson, Troy, to a CSO concert. They were playing the perfect piece of music for Troy, The Planets. Troy owned a telescope and liked looking at pictures of outer space. He also liked the music from "Star Wars," which sounds a lot like The Planets.

However, by the time the concert date came, Troy had moved on from astronomy to focusing on his future career as an NFL wide receiver. He had also switched from "Star Wars" music to Kanye West

I picked him up on the big night and took him out for dinner. Fine dining wasn't on the menu because Troy's favorite entrees are chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Troy showed excellent manners by not bringing his iPad into the restaurant. 

After we ate, we rushed to the concert. When I read the program, I saw they weren't playing The Planets till the second half of the two-hour concert. I broke the news to Troy that there was going to be opera before The Planets. He looked up at me wide-eyed and asked, "What's opera?" After the soprano in the sparkly dress finished singing, Troy, the music critic said, "That lady sings louder than my music teacher!" 

I became concerned about Troy having the stamina to visit all eight planets. He had awakened at "6:32" and finished an entire day of second Grade, which included three recesses. Troy is a trouper, though, and was ready for the hour-long piece.

On our journey through the solar system, our first stop was "Mars." The war-like music sounded a lot like Darth Vader's theme music. "Venus, the Bringer of Peace" was just the opposite. Countdowns are important to astronauts. So, for Troy's benefit, I started counting down the planets on my fingers. 

We visited "Mercury" another peaceful planet, before landing on Jupiter, a very jolly planet. As we explored deeper into space, the music became more mysterious. By the time we reached "Neptune" the music was downright mystical, with an invisible choir singing a wordless song.

When the piece ended, the audience rose and gave the CSO a long standing ovation. Like many space travelers before him, Troy was just thankful to be back on Earth. "I survived!" he declared with relief. I give Troy a lot of credit. He was the youngest member of the audience by about four years. I decided to wait a few years before inviting him to another concert. 

It's OK that our kids rejected going to classical music concerts because they embraced other traditions we introduced. They make fresh-baked cinnamon rolls for birthdays, they take first-day-of-school photos next to a front-yard tree, and they say a little prayer before meals. 

They've also introduced their own traditions, like the family soup party on Halloween. It does my heart good to see our grandkids continue family traditions, like going to the Holiday Walk. Our grandsons love coming to Madison Street for this family-friendly event: the live store windows, the reindeer and Santa riding a fire truck. If Troy is interested, there's even some classical music.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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