Monday, December 19, 2005

Sing, Sing a Song!

When I was a child, I sang in the car. I wasn't setting out to annoy my mother, but those were the days before portable electronic entertainment and so I sang. I thought I sounded pretty good, really, singing about raindrops falling from the sky and all, but one day my mother snapped at me, saying, "Do you have to sing like that?" (Like what? I never knew what she meant.) She still remarks from time to time about our propensity to sing in the car, as if it were a really really really bad thing. Listen, I understand being annoyed with kids, but you never really do know when a casual remark will wound a child deeply, do you?

I became very self-conscious about my voice, but I still loved to sing. I sang in my elementary school choir and sang at church, but in sixth grade when I heard rumors that the music teacher occasionally made students stand up and sing alone, I quit the music track entirely. I had myself transferred to the triad of art (taught by Mr. Wise with a nose hair growing directly out of the tip of his nose--he set us loose with instructions to copy cartoon strips. In that class, we also used clay to make animals, but since I couldn't figure out how you could possibly balance a mammal on spindly legs of clay, I made a hideous penguin which my mother insisted on keeping to this day), shop (I made a wooden vehicle and the teacher lamented that I used an awful lot of wood on my contraption), and home economics (the teacher knew my father and I was a sort of teacher's pet, but when it came time to sew, I created an apron because I knew we'd have to model our finished product and I was worried that an actual garment might be so embarrassing I'd have to die).

About that time, though, my dad bought a piano for my benefit and moved it into my bedroom. I sang surreptitiously behind the closed doors of my room, playing the piano loudly and singing softly so that no one would mock me. But that didn't stop my dad. He would stand outside my locked door and howl and rattle the doorknob. And yes, when I say "howl," I mean howl. He'd howl like a coyote crying to the moon.

Nothing gives a young girl confidence like her father teasing her (unless, of course, it's her mother telling her to pipe down).

Despite everything, I sang in public, often in a voice quavering from nerves in the early days. I sang in high school and college, gaining confidence. I toyed with composing songs and fitted my tunes with broken-hearted lyrics and tortured poetry.

And then I grew up, recorded all my compositions on a cassette tape for posterity, and put away all that. I left the musical performing to those who are much more talented.

But now I am a pastor's wife, so I am called upon to lead singing from the piano. At the moment, I have no musical jobs in the church, but from time to time, I'm the one plunking out the hymns and crooning into the microphone. I've been asked to sing this holiday season and perhaps I will.

In the meantime, I'm trapped in my own personal rock opera. My 3-year old daughter has taken to singing phrases to me. For instance, she'll be floating in the bathtub and she'll sing out to me, "Mommmmmy! Come heeeeeere!" in a sing-song-y voice. I'll answer her in a dramatic tune, "What for?" and really, I wish there were a way to include a musical score so you could experience the opulence of this opera. She will get carried away on occasion, repeating the same phrase until I answer back with a melody of my own. We sing back and forth to each other and I can't get over how amusing I find this. She'll sing, "I want a peanut butter sandwich!" and I'll reply, "Okay! Just a minute! I'll make you one!"

My boys never let me sing songs to them. They'd put their sticky palms over my mouth and ask me to be quiet. My daughter, though, is different. We sing a medley of songs at night, including the standards "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "This Little Light of Mine," "I Love You, You Love Me," "Rock A Bye Baby," and a weird variation of the lullaby song. I have no idea what the actual words are, so the first time I sang it, I made up these lyrics, "Lullaby, and goodnight, it is time to go night-night! And we dream happy dreams and we'll sleep all night long!"

As you can see, perhaps songwriting is not my most striking talent. But now my girl sings this variation on a theme at the top of her skinny little lungs, therefore immortilizing that one week when she wasn't sleeping well. " . . . and we'll sleep all night long!"

Meanwhile, my 7-year old son lacks an ear for music, but he makes up for his lack of musical acuity with sheer enthusiasm. He belts out the words with little regard for the tune. Yes, my boy is the one singing in a hearty monotone with such a charming and amusing expression on his face that I want to pickle him in a giant jar so I can save him exactly as he is for the next twenty years.

12 Comments:

Blogger Smoov said...

God when I think of the casual remarks I have made to my daughter. Good thing I contribute to her therapy fund monthly!

4:22 AM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

Sing it loud.
Sing it strong.

I can hear my boy singing in the shower as I type this. One of life's simple pleasures.

Suzanne

6:16 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Mr. P loves singing and dancing so much that I've enrolled him in a music class starting in January.

It's very gratifying that he thinks I have the best voice in the world- even better than the Wiggles!

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Kismet said...

I love your honesty. I love to sing, but no one loves to listen so I no longer burden them :)

~K!

8:52 AM  
Blogger methatiam said...

Lullaby and goodnight
With roses be dight
Creep into thy bed
There pillow thy head
If God will thou shalt wake
When the morning doth break
If God will thou shalt wake
When the morning doth break

Lullaby and goodnight
Those blue eyes close tight
Bright angels are near
So sleep without fear
They will guard thee from harm
With fair dreamland's sweet charm
They will guard thee from harm
With fair dreamland's sweet charm

11:02 AM  
Blogger Gem said...

We do the opera thing too, singing back and forth. Although all of a sudden at 5 and 7, mom embarrasses them WAY too much! My 5yo will sing in the bathroom on the toilet, in the bathtub, in bed, at the computer, in the car, all made-up songs. I have never been able to catch her on tape, but sometimes her motifs are pretty good!

12:10 PM  
Blogger dinodoc said...

Awww. My dad & I used to do that. Although our favorites were The Banana Boat Song & the "Hi Ho" chorus from Snow White. Good memories.

P.S. - at least your penguin survived. I made what I thought was a very fine bear, but alas it blew up in the kiln. sniff.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Cris said...

Sing from the heart!
We sing too.....all of us, all of the time.
The kids learned it, the grandkids learned it. Life is single dimensional without music.

music is my one salvation, singing is its celebration!

Have a chocolate chip cookie and sing!

2:15 PM  
Blogger Krisco said...

That is so sweet.

And you are right, you do never know when what you say, offhandedly, can really wound a child.

I am going to continue to try to keep that in mind. Thanks for the poignant reminder.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

My mother, to this day, still sings a lot - doing housework, driving, whatever. I'm sure I picked up on it because I used to sing to my kids all the time. We caught my 19 year old (at age 4) singing "This Old Man" to a Cicada and substituting "cicada" for "man". All the while she had a cicada (type of locust) crawling around her fingers. Really quite cute! We always said we would send it to America's Funniest Home Videos - but never did.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

My husband and I do a smashing version of the James Taylor "Mocking Bird".

5:42 PM  
Blogger grace said...

I love nothing more than to hear my boys singing at the top of their lungs in the next room. And yet, if they become aware that I'm listening or enjoying it they get intimidated and stop. I do believe singing like that is a true sign of joy and contentment...at least on some level, you know? It does make me happy!
grace

10:06 PM  

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