Wednesday, August 1, 2007


August. Phew. August is our designated "all quiet on the home front" month. Every weekend from the beginning of June until just this last one, either one or both of us were out of town or we had people staying with us. If I had to say, I'd guess this is why my garden is in such bad shape.

It is also why I am only now finishing this post that I started writing in my head way back the week before the traveling started, when Seahorse wrote this about returning to music after silence.

Both A. and I had weekends away from Z. in the Time of Traveling. Mine was the weekend of Helen's memorial--the second weekend in June--and it marked the first time I was away from Z. overnight. I correctly anticipated various things about this--her acting out, my aching breasts--but there were a couple of things I didn't even realize I missed until I came home. One was her specific weight in my arms--while I was away, I had carried toddlers who were lighter than she was, and she felt so heavy! But so reassuring.

Another thing was song.

Unlike Seahorse, I'm not a musician, and I haven't had damage to my hearing (okay, no non-routine damage), but depression kills my ability to connect to music. When I left my teaching job to finish my dissertation and found myself isolated--1,000 miles and a time zone away from almost everyone I knew--music faded out of my life. Honestly, it had been fading for awhile. The year before we left for Madison, on September 11, 2001, I switched my radio to NPR and pretty much left it there for three years.

The album that brought me back to music was Rhythm of the Saints, and more exactly "Born at the Right Time", which made me cry every time I listened to it, and then I would hit repeat to cry again: "Eyes as clear as centuries/Her silky hair was brown." If I knew nothing else about the baby I was carrying, I knew she would look like that (and she does). Mind you, this was during the last trimester of my pregnancy, so crying in no way indicated a change in the state of my limbic system.

Something you may as well know about me is that I can carry a tune but cannot reproduce one. I would have told you I couldn't sing at all if a musician I knew in college hadn't told me that I was always off by a third. I was singing harmony, consistently. Weird, hunh? When I was preparing for my adult bat mitzvah, a lower-school music teacher I knew gave me a few voice lessons, just so I wouldn't embarrass myself. He confirmed the harmony thing and from him I also learned I was a soprano, which surprised me. (It shouldn't have: As Lo and E. and a few scattered lurkers know, on the phone my voice is indistinguishable from A.'s and her voice is a beautifully trained soprano.)

I incorporated this new knowledge into my life insofar as it made me more confident when I occasionally signed up to lead services, and that was that until Z. was born.

Then song erupted. Z.'s name scans the same as a name in one of those semi-bawdy songs that circulates on playgrounds. We made up verse after verse to sing to her in the stroller and the car and on the changing table. I've always made up sort of absurd songs to sing to A. or my dogs, but with a baby the opportunities abounded. As time has gone on, singing became part of Z.'s routines. When it is my turn for bedtime, I sing her to sleep, trying hard to hit the notes in my head, not the notes my voice is inclined towards.

The first thing Z. wanted me to do when I got home from the airport after my weekend away was to sit down with the Philadelphia Chickens book and sing every song in it, and Snugglepuppy 3 or 4 or 8 times--I don't know how many repetitions she actually wanted, because we had to eat dinner before her appetite for Boynton and Ford was exhausted. She sang along in her tiny toddler voice, a little hesistantly, but pleased to be putting each word in its place in the line...the words are running along in her head, and she's starting to get them out.

Z. is singing! She sings snatches of songs all the time, many of them from day care--songs we never taught her. She sings along to her good-night songs every once in awhile, with an effect that I'm told is eerie when heard from the other side of the door.

And she sings along to cd's in the car. Any song with a wordless part is hers; Bubbletoes is a favorite: we have to pipe down when Jack Johnson gets to the "luh-duh-da-da-duh-da's," because dat's Z's pawrt:

...It's as simple as something that nobody knows that
Her eyes are as big as her bubbly toes
On the feet of the queen of the hearts of the cards
And her feet are infested with tar balls and...

Now we are quiet and from the carseat comes:

La da da da da da
La da da da da da da
La da da da da da
La da da da da da da

La da da da da da
La da da da da da da
La da da da da da
La da da da da da da da

I hope she will always be singing.


Lo said...

Ooooh. Me, too.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Such a lovely post, S.

(But, oh dear, from my perspective as the parent of a determined six-year-old songwriter, there are times when I would give up a limb to hear him STOP singing for a minute!)

niobe said...

This post makes me wish I could sing. But I know my limitations.

S. said...

(blushing) ... thanks.

Phantom, maybe LG will write some for Z. to sing one day.

Niobe, I ain't out there singing for just anyone. Being a third off consistently is still being consistently off-key.