After breakfast each morning, my wife Michelle and I sit at the table and talk about the news, or something that’s happened in the family, or some show we watched on television the night before – just conversation before we go off in different directions to begin our chores for the day. We both grew up in families that sang – my siblings and I humming or whistling popular songs we’d heard on the radio or from the “Victrola” (record player); her family was more serious about music, often harmonizing around the table. So, often one of us will casually hum a tune or begin singing softly, and the other will join in. It’s a habit that we picked up early in our marriage and carry on to this day.

When they were in their teens, our children were annoyed and/or embarrassed with our spontaneous vocalizing, but then, adolescents are frequently embarrassed by their parents. Because Michelle and I grew up during the period of music now known as “The Great American Songbook,” we know most of the songs of that period. Consequently, if I absent-mindedly begin with a phrase from “Moonlight in Vermont,” she will come in with the words, and soon we’re both singing away, entertaining ourselves and, I suppose, calling forth some ethereal memories. It may sound silly, but it’s been a pleasant part of our marriage.

So, I was surprised the other day when I was singing to myself and Michelle asked, “What’s that song?” I told her it was “My Love” and that it was made popular by Joni James. “When?” she asked. I should explain that I’m eleven years older that she; consequently, once in a while I dredge up a tune that was popular before she was around. “It sounds nice,” she said, “how does it go. Rather than replying, I walked over to our smart-speaker and asked Alexa to play Joni James’ version of “My Love.”

At this point, I will confess that even though I was skeptical about having a smart speaker in my home, I am pleased with the technology that allows us to bring back things that we thought were gone. When they first came on the market, critics warned that the new devices could listen in on private conversations and that even when they were not being used, they were still monitoring. After some thought, I realized that monitoring my conversations would eventually bore even a machine to the point that it would probably turn itself off. Now I have one in the living room and another in the basement. We use them almost entirely for playing old music – swing, big band, traditional jazz and show tunes. Sometimes, I deliberately challenge Alexa by asking for some obscure song from the past (Alexa, play Don Cornell’s “Hold My Hand.”) or some nearly forgotten musical icon. (Alexa, play something by The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra.) Recently, my 4-year-old grandson and I laughed together at Spike Jones’ version of “Cocktails for Two” – he for the first time; I for maybe the hundredth, but the first with him.

The proliferation of outlets for music, podcasts, streaming television, social media, etc. is wonderful in many ways, but the unity we had with fewer choices is gone. I don’t know if “pop” music as we knew it even exists today. Many years ago, I wrote “Memories at eighty are as important as dreams at eighteen.” Perhaps the memories of today’s young folks will be built on some technology yet to come. I’m curious, not concerned. As the song says, “For it’s a long, long time/ From May to November/ But the days grow short/ When you reach September.”

Everybody used to know that song.

Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in Connersville’s Bucktown neighborhood.