Tag Archives: singing

Simple Things

I certainly have a lot of things that could make me insanely proud.  Seriously.

Still, it’s the smallest of things that often make life worth living.  For me…it was just the other night.

Making S'Mores
Making S’Mores

I will use the cheap, well-worn fire pit in the back yard as a bit of a sanctuary.  I’ll often go out there with the kids and we’ll make s’mores.  More often I’ll put on some Miles Davis or Brubeck on my turntable and go out there, after the sun has gone down, and have a glass of wine just to relax.  It’s not horribly often, but when I do it, the evening goes very well.  More often than not it is very late, much after the chores of the night, the dishes and the lunches are all taken care of for tomorrow.

But the other night, while out by the fire and reading a book, Hannah came out, excited, happy, and near stammering she couldn’t get the words out fast enough.  She had, you see, figured out the chords to the song “Rainbow Connection”.  (Admit it – you’re all sitting there trying to do your Kermit voice and sing it now…I know it!)  Bear in mind, Hannah’s been singing this song for weeks, so I must have given her a bit of an eye-roll at the time because I was near sick of the tome.

But then she broke out her Stratocaster and decided to sing it with the guitar…and her brother sat next to her and broke in as well.

They were horribly off-key; the guitar was hideously out of tune; the timing was a bit off . . . and it was the most wonderful thing I’d ever heard.

Noah and Hannah, you see, are more often than not at each others’ throats.  When they are it’s usually me who has to intervene and even at that I’m usually at full-volume with my blood pressure rivaling Old Faithful’s ability to blow a gasket.

But tonight, my shy son, who hates singing in front of people and who usually acts really silly and imaginative simply sat by his sister, on the arm of the outdoor chair, and sang.  Sure, he was off-key, but he did it anyway with a huge smile on his face.

Most of you might think nothing of that.  You might even poke a little fun at your kids for being silly.  Maybe not.

I certainly didn’t.

IMG_0084Noah and Hannah coordinated, sang, tried to stay on-beat, and just serenaded me there during the cool night by the fire.  I hadn’t seen them perform anything together…ever…unless I put it together myself.

It’s a tribute and testament to the two of them and their tenacity that we’ve gotten to the point in our lives where these little things – the Rainbow Connection – would be an event to remember.  For them it’s probably a simple, silly moment.

For me, it’s a simple thing that makes life worth living.

Sam I Am

This isn’t a Seuss style post, though I’d like that the most.
It’s about my son Sam, my youngest little man.
He never speaks out,
Hardly ever shouts
Usually quiet and still as a post.

Last night was a first
While his Dad quenched his thirst
Sam and the choir did sing.
An amazing small voice
From the back row by choice
Throughout the room did ring.

Okay . . . I’m done I can’t find a way to carry on the Dr. Seuss theme for the entire post.

Sam...smack in the middle, back row.
Sam…smack in the middle, back row.

This is, of course, a post about my son, Sam.  Late in the week last week I was told he was supposed to sing at a parents’ meeting at their school along with the choir, guitarists, band, violinists, etc.  When I had to leave work early to pick up the other kids (long story) and get them home, fed, and left to their own devices (another long story) and head back to see Sam perform and attend the meeting.

What’s the old line?  The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?  That’s not Sam.  Samuel, my youngest twin (by like – 15 seconds) is like his sister Hannah in that he always has a smile on his face.  That’s a big feat for him lately.  He lost his Mom, and he was insanely close to her.  He lost his Grandpa, and though he doesn’t want to admit it, that affected him, too. After losing Andrea, Sam shut down, and I mean, went upstairs, hid, and wouldn’t come out except to eat and talk when he needed to.  That’s all.

But he changed.  Occasionally he’d come to the banister of the staircase and should “Hey Dad?”
“Yeah, Samwise?”
“Love you!”

That always made me smile.  Yes, I know that was still grief he needs to deal with, and some fears that he’s coming to terms with.  I’ve gleaned all that knowledge in the last couple years.  But it still melted my heart a little, and mine had gotten a little cold.  He’s moved to coming up and hugging me at random times, which is just as good in my book.  He’s smiling . . . a lot.

So when Sam wanted, halfway through the year, to re-join the choir I couldn’t tell him “no.”  I’m a musician, I like that he wants to be there.  I also think the kid has near perfect pitch – better than mine even.  When tonight came up, even thought it meant a mad-dash scramble, I was eager to be there.

And there Sam was . . . voice ringing out, and once in awhile looking over the head of the little girl in front of him to check if someone was there to watch him.  About a minute in he noticed I was there, front and center, and his eyes, face, and smile lit up.  He sang louder.

The Choir
The Choir

He was happy.

We’ve had a rough few weeks in the household, and it would be easy to fall into despair.  I wish I could say I had the chance to sink into it myself, but when your kids are hurt worse . . . you put your face to the wind and weather the storm.  This storm was far less grating than the one two years ago.

And in the end . . . I got that smile . . . and an excited, verbose recitation on the way home from my son, Sam.

And I loved every minute of it.

If You’ll be My Dixie Chicken

Dixie Chicken by Little Feat

This morning something spontaneous and amazing happened.

We burst into song.

2012-12-16 10.51.51

Yes, I know, I’m a musician and that shouldn’t surprise me.  I am, after all, the person who wrote in his own bio that “I see rhythm and harmony in the world.”

But that’s not always applicable to the four miniature human beings that reside with me every day.  They like music, too, they really don’t have a choice.  We pick out LP’s or CD’s and listen to music every night we have a chance to eat at the table.

One of our nightly musical excursions.
One of our nightly musical excursions.

I also play a little game when the radio’s on or I pick music that has any kind of history or background.  I cover up the radio, I hide the song and LP titles, and I quiz the kids on who it is.  There’s a misnomer from some out there that I only like music recorded between 1967 and 1975.  That’s not true.  I have a love of jazz, particularly Brubeck, Coltrane, early Miles Davis, all that.  Aretha, Ray Charles, even some Sinatra here and there.  Classic rock hangs in my head a lot, sure.  I have a deep and abiding respect for Eric Clapton.  I think Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs might possibly be the greatest rock album ever recorded.

But I also listen with the kids to the Black Keys.  I have Amanda Palmer’s new album.  (Okay, she was in the New York Dolls, but still, it’s new music)  The kids pick Adele and Bruno Mars along with Brian Setzer and Bonnie Raitt.  I take pride in exposing them to good music while we listen to some of the auto-tuned pop that dominates the recording industry today.

But this morning we were on the way to school and I had a CD in the car, something the kids hadn’t realized, and it started playing.

Ba dump.  Bump.  Ba dump, bump . . . went the bass.

“Who is it, Hannah,” I asked.
She screwed her face up tight, looking like she might know but couldn’t figure it out.
Then the vocals started:
I seen the bright lights of Memphis . . . “

“Oh!  It’s Little Feat!”

Then Hannah, Noah, Sam and I broke into song.
And the Commodore Hotel . . . and underneath a streetlamp, I met a Southern Belle”

More than breaking into song, I realized that the kids actually knew all the words.  Now, I get it . . . probably shouldn’t have my 9-year-olds singing “boy do I remember the strain of her refrain, and the nights we spent together, and the way she called my name…”

Still, I was singing The Joker and other songs at their age.  Still – “probably shouldn’t be singing this song at school,” was my line to them.
“Oh, we know,” Hannah says.
“Why?” asks Noah, who can’t let the question go.
“Just don’t, okay?  Most people wouldn’t understand.”

But then Hannah recounted my tale . . . how Lowell George changed the back pickup in his Stratocaster to a Telecaster one.  How he used a Craftsman socket as a slide.  How – and this is going way back – my cousin, Tom, was the only other person I’d ever heard sound exactly like Lowell George . . . with or without the slide.  I was proud.

We sang the entire way to school.  Everything from the low-down Southern whiskey to the white picket fence and boardwalk of the house at the edge of town.

My kids love the music in the car, at dinner, and the way it permeates the house.  If you wonder why I recount this tale, remember that music was still big when my wife was alive . . . but not part of our lives.  Guitars were relegated to the back room.  Music wasn’t played at dinner.  The stereo was put away.

Today, in the middle of a simple drive to school, my kids broke free, finally, of their past as well.  Belting out Dixie Chicken – an odd choice, I’ll grant you – they showed we’ve become our own strange, little family now.

Thankfully, no notes came home saying they were singing the song at school.  And it could have been worse . . . we could have been singing Fat Man in the Bathtub.

Fat Man In the Bathtub by Little Feat