Yes, singing! Yesterday I sat in the front row for a matinee of The Sound of Music with my mother and daughter at the brilliant, golden Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The space itself is glorious and worth a visit. But the show...! This is the sort of thing I would have rolled my eyes over but a few short years ago. When my mother proposed we go, I immediately imagined sitting in one of those plush velvet seats next to my five year old and my heart skipped a beat. Still, I thought I'd have some cool kid distance from all the nuns and lederhosen. You know, watch my starry-eyed kid with the satisfaction of a holiday event well done while inwardly scoffing at the schlocky sentiments onstage. Ha.
I fought off tears during the entire show. Every time Maria opened her mouth I was a mess. It happened no matter what the actors were singing about (they're yodeling! sob!), and so I decided my response must have been related to the fact that I was sitting 8 feet away from the source of pure, round notes. The sound was penetrating. It shook me up and squeezed the tears out! Music is extraordinary that way. (Though, I must admit, I did cry more when the Reverend Mother belted out Climb Every Mountain).
Today Mike's parents, bearing many gifts, came to join us at my mom's for a visit. It was peaceful and happy and the children were delighted with their toys and books. But Frances became increasingly brittle and fixated on playing librarian in a disturbingly dictatorial, antisocial way. Eventually she snapped. Tears, tears, and more tears. Reasoning with her was useless. (Do you remember ever feeling that way as a child during the holidays? I do. The adults want to talk to each other, or maybe throw your cute younger sibling in the air, the presents are over and you suffer all the same problems you did before they arrived ... in short, it is just not as special as it is supposed to be and that is unavoidably sad.)
Finally I coaxed her into my lap and sang My Favorite Things into her little red ear. Forty pounds of tense kid immediately relaxed and sank into me. When it was over her head popped up. She found my eyes with her wide glittering brown ones and said simply: sing another. So I did. Then I vividly remembered doing just this thing with her as a toddler. I'd stretch out on the couch, and she'd climb up and settle herself like a frog on my chest and ask for another and another and another. Her insatiable appetite for songs unearthed countless tunes from summer camp, girl scouts, church, and musicals that had long been dormant inside me.
Sometimes I wish I could sing better, or that I'd stuck with piano, or learned to play the guitar. Then I'd have real musical gifts to give my kids. But on nights like tonight, I recognize that what I do have to give is enough. Children are forgiving. Mostly they make a poignantly appreciative and generous audience. And songs - even when sung imperfectly - can communicate something essential when conversation fails. I experienced the voices at the Fulton yesterday as if they were stroking my cheek, smoothing my hair, squeezing my insides. How startling to realize that in a small way, my voice can do the same for someone else.
Yours can too. Sing another!
Yours can too. Sing another!
p.s. A piece I wrote for the Being blog ran on Christmas (scroll down a bit to find it). It was such a gift for me - a source of validation and happiness to contribute to a show I truly admire.