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Rocket Man (then and now)

Musings on the lyric's of Elton John's Rocket Man

When I was about 10 years old, technology changed my life. It was 1974, and my parents brought home the most amazing thing: a clock-radio. Until then, the technology of Radio and the technology of Alarm Clock had been two completely separate functions, housed into two distinct areas of our house.

Of course the sound quality of the clock radio was nothing compared to our family stereo, but the idea that a clock could control the comings and goings of the radio gave me an entirely new perspective on the subject of mornings. I don't remember actually begging, but somehow I wound up with my own clock radio a few weeks later. And that's when I made the technology my own.

In our house, the radio was permanently positioned on WMHT, Schenectady's local NPR-affiliated classical radio station. Within moments of pluggin in my clock-radio into the electrical socket of my room, I did something I never dared to do on my parents stereo: I scanned the dial. I discovered Rock Music (or at least what the local top-40 radio station would have you believe was Rock Music). Not long after, Elton John's Pinball Wizard burned up the charts, and I began my lifelong love of outrageous music.

Last night I returned home from work with my daughter, who had been on a shopping expedition earlier in the day. She had chosen a rocket ship toy for her younger cousins (one of whom, at age 2, can properly name, order, and lecture about the planets--no joke). And she decided that since it was for ages 18 months "and up", she should get one too.

I'm really not a big fan of toys, plastic, and especially plastic toys that require batteries, but the deed was done, and I was not going to be an ogre about it. But I did save the bag.

After my daughter had exhausted the possibilities of play with this toy (it did not take long), she came downstairs to announce that she was bored. I gave her no sympathy, whereupon she decided she was going to raise a fuss. I ignored her, and somehow, she spied the large bad in which these two rocket ships (and all their packaging materials) had been packed. She decided she would use the bag as a parachute down the stairs, which I told her was not a safe thing to do. "Then what can I do!?" she wailed. I suggested she head outside to the yard and see if she could fly. "Great idea!" And so she grabbed some "wings" from our pile of cardboard recycling, strapped the bag onto her back, and proceeded to have a roaring great time for 30 minutes. It reminded me of her first birthday or two, where, yes, she did have more fun with the wrapping paper than with the gifts inside. Now, going on eight years old, she can still return to those moments of Pure Joy with nothing more than discarded wrappings.

Reflecting on my own little "rocket person", I decided to look up the lyrics for Rocket Man, another favorite song by Elton John. Reading them made me all teary as I realized a new convergence was taking place, that of my self as a young boy discovering the thrills and joys of music, my self as a young "Rocket Man", proudly and recklessly defying nature and heading, lonely, into the unknown, and myself now as a married man and father, with responsibilities, love, commitments to honor. I am happy, now, that my daugher return from the back yard and breathlessly report "Daddy! Did you see me flying? I actually FLEW!" And I'm happy, too, that she need not leave orbit to do so.