Fatherhood is really something sometimes.
Tonight, my son and I found ourselves crying into each other over a video game theme song. And it was a perfect moment.
Hours ago, I was sitting at work and had texted my wife to see if our son was good at school. My wife would be out to dinner tonight, so I wanted to take my son out for a hamburger, a stop at the comic book store, and then back home to play video games with him. I was excited.
My wife texted back and delivered the bad news: our son wasn’t good at school. I was immediately sad. It put me in a bad mood. Now, dinner would be something uninspired that I’d figure out at home. We wouldn’t go out. We couldn’t play video games. On my drive home, I thought “well, at least he goes to bed early.”
We ended up watching The Game Awards – which was, as they usually are, an awkward video game awards show. It trudged along, and my son and I talked and even laughed a little as we watched, but my disappointment was still evident.
Then, the closing act of the show was announced: Imagine Dragons, accompanied by Koji Kondo on piano. Koji Kondo is a music composer, responsible for many tunes that you’re probably familiar with in the video game industry – most notably, songs from the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda franchises. Imagine Dragons wasn’t all that special to me. They’ve got a couple of songs on the radio, but they were no Koji Kondo in my book.
But instead of starting into an Imagine Dragons song, the band, began playing songs from the Zelda franchise. Then Koji Kondo joins them, playing piano. Together, they began to play the theme from The Legend of Zelda. My son perked up and said “that’s the Zelda song,” and before I could tell him that he was right, he lept onto our couch and buried his face into the pillows.
This is always his universal sign for “I’m crying and I don’t want you to see.”
Then, almost immediately, I found myself crying.
My son began to look up when he heard me sniffling, and in a shaky voice, I asked, “did they hit a note that made you sad?” He didn’t answer, but asked in return, “are you crying?”
“I am,” I said. “when I got married to momma, they played this song. This song makes me happy.”***
My son walked over to me and buried his head in my chest. We both heaved a little under the weight of our own tears.
“It’s okay to cry,” I tell him. I was talking mostly to him, but also a little bit to myself. “It means you’re human.”
“It means you have a big heart,” my son answered. This is what we tell him when he cries.
And the moment was perfect. He nuzzled his head back into my shirt, and I rested my chin on his head as I rubbed his back. The heaviness I felt earlier, being disappointed in my son’s behavior at school and my wishing we could have gone out tonight, was gone.
We’re sensitive, this family, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Even if from time to time, it means that we cry over video game music.
Here’s the performance. Our feels kicked in at 2:30:
*** (When my wife and I got married, we had a pianist playing during the cocktail hour. And while we told the pianist to play whatever he had in mind, I called back a couple of days later and asked if I could send over a couple of sheets of music to pepper in during cocktail hour. The songs were classy piano tunes that could blend in with timeless love songs: the theme to Animal Crossing, the theme to Super Mario Bros. and the theme to The Legend of Zelda. Among our 300 guests, only a small fraction of our also-small handful of peers noticed the addition.)