Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 1999

ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / June 2, 1999

It had been a very pleasant, relatively easy family day. Easy, that is, until in therole of the good aunt I attempted to alleviate the boredom of my Monica nieces by taking them shopping. Katie and Gina had a few dollars burning a hole in theirpockets.Besides, the time together in the car would be good for conversationwhich we did have. Then it turned ugly. By that I mean the generation gapstarted to show.

It started because I asked the girls what they were interested in looking for at the store. Well, it was CDs of course, and of course, I own none. Still, wantingto seem with it,I brought up the subject of the one young music group I had known of, New Kids on the Block, and instantly became the recipient of stares of disbelief.

Persisting, I said, “By the way, is that group, ‘N Sync (which I heard of only recently) something like The Backstreet Boys (which I had also only heard of), and did any of them take the place of New Kids on the Block?” They were aghast that I should think such a thing.

“Aunt Anna, you don’t know who they are? Haven’t you heard them?” Just a little embarrassed and wishing I could change the subject, the truth came out. I didn’t have a clue! Was the gap widening?Nonetheless, determined to hold my own, I reminded them, “Now girls, I do remember your laying in front of the television for hours driving the rest of us crazy while you played the same New Kids on the Block tape over and over again.

Gina, you were so young then we couldn’t believe you would sit still that long.

You switch allegiance to another group and I, being single and childless, am suppose to be aware of those things? Am I to understand why you two (along with your sensible mother) would stand in line at Allied Express for three hours to get tickets – for August, no less – to see a group you already saw hardly a month ago?” Darn that gap! No greater love has any mother, I always say. I didn’t ask Nancy, but you couldbet she was only one out of dozens of devoted parents standing in line to buy their offspring tickets for a group called ‘N Sync. Katie and Gina say there are”awesome.” I am willing to take their word.”So,” I said to the girls in desperation to have them talk to me, “what’s the difference between them and the New Kids on the Block?” “They sing better,” said 14-year-old Katie. “They’re cuter,” 10-year-old Ginaquickly chimed in from the back seat.

Unwilling to risk not looking like a really with it,modern-day aunt, I tried to disguise the fact that I was totally lost, uninformed, that these were only names to me, and, especially, that I couldn’t care less. But, we had to talk aboutsomething! Obviously, they wouldn’t be interested in the latest stock market report or the Kosovo situation, so I blindly carried on.

“What are their names and whatever became of the ‘New Kids’ group, anyhow?” refusing to let go of the one name I knew.

Katie could still talk about them and knew their names, and for the others, Gina was not only able to recite each name, but with just a little assistance from her big sister also named the towns they were from. She was 10, I was amazed.Marveling however at myself that I could keep up an appearance of interest and ask sensible questions, communication stayed alive and the gap between my nieces and me became less scary. I couldn’t help but reflect, though, on yearspast when they were satisfied with just having stories read to them and those new, young music groups were far in the future.

Katie was graduating from the eighth grade and had a birthday coming up. Ginajust had a birthday, and besides, she is my godchild. When we left the store theyhad their CDs, tapes – and their money. They also had big smiles. I’m a good aunt.I thought I heard a gap close.

By the way, have you heard of a group called “98 degrees?”

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