Weekly Journal 6 - Musical Musings

Actually, who I am is "A person who thinks of what she really wants to say five minutes later when class is over." :)

I recognize that this isn't unique, but it is frustrating even so. The real problem was how many things I like about myself. Coming from where I've come from, that is definitely against the odds. But it is true now, though it wasn't true for most of my life. And recognizing that "problem" was a joy.

I think if I had a do-over I'd say that I am a singer. Insofar as I have religious feelings, I feel them when I hear music or sing. Other things about me have changed a lot, but I've been passionate about music ever since I can remember. Even before I can remember, actually. At 18 months old I started crying when Bach's Minuet in G was turned off in the middle, and my uncle and aunt turned it back on when they realized I was humming it. Earlier on I sang before I talked. I'm told that I did a great playpen rendition of the Doors' "Come On Baby Light My Fire." Also "Chain of Fools." While dancing with the aid of holding on tight to the edge of the playpen because I couldn't stand on my own yet. I used to make up operas starring our fox terrier Charlie and, naturally, myself. Charlie played a supporting role, because I had to sing his part for him. And make him dance on his back legs by lifting up on his front legs. When my little brothers were old enough to replace Charlie, I directed all of us in musicals based on fairy tales like Goldilocks (I got to be Goldilocks AND Baby Bear - I was a bit of a prima dona). Later on we would learn songs on records and perform them for our parents, and we were FINE on Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." We even choreographed it.

So it isn't a surprise that my mom was embarrassed and punished me for being a "show off." Working class white people in my part of Iowa did NOT embrace the performing arts. It took a long time to get over the shame, but nothing stopped me from singing when I let my guard down, and humming without knowing I was doing it. One time we were at my Great Grandma Ruth's, and she was sick, and I was singing in the next room. When my mom and grandma shushed me, Great Grandma asked them to turn the radio back on and find out who the singer was. Did I gloat inside? You bet I did! Nothing could stop me from listening all I wanted to, though. I could and can listen to any piece of music I know in my head, even complex pieces like symphonies and madrigals. When I was bored in school, I would just listen to whatever was on my internal soundtrack instead of the lesson. Don't worry, our class is too interesting for that!

I didn't have the right kind of voice for classical music or opera, which disappointed me until I discovered Celtic music in college. I was spellbound. And my voice was PERFECT for folk. Song's not in your range? Just transpose it! Which I could do with no effort. This was bad in chorus, but great in folk. And coming from an abusive background, the stories of betrayal and violence and true love and parted families or lovers resonated. Anger frightens me in person, but I can sing about it and kind of process my own feelings. Celtic music lays it all out there, just like blues and soul and gospel, which I already knew about and loved. My college roommate Lavonne and I listened to Steve Winwood's "Bring Me a Higher Love" about three times every day. And sing along with gusto and volume. I'm surprised we didn't break the tape. Or our RA's spirit. At least we weren't as bad as the guy upstairs who decided that he needed to learn to play Wagner's entire Ring Cycle on the recorder. Flat. At every hour of the day and night.

I know that this must seem like a big digression with little to do with class, but after nearly eight years of twins and work, grad school is for ME. I'm rediscovering myself in major ways as well as discovering other people's viewpoints and experiences. I love my twins, and my husband, and my job. But I miss parts of me that I have set aside since late in my pregnancy. Relationships require compromise when they don't require outright sacrifice. These yield high dividends in love and joy.

But oh is it sweet to stretch my wings again.

I think I'll sign up for that Open Mic in January.


LynAnne Smucker said...

It is true folks, she can really sing. I remember when on a road trip caravaned with another veichle and losing each other outside of Kansas City. Mary and I waited at a gas station in hopes of reconnecting with our lost parties and trying to learn the song lyrics to Stephen Foster's, "Hard Times". We kept singing it over and over. I of course, kept wandering off key, becuase that's what I do when I sing. To this day, filk/folk singing with Mary is still some of the best fun you could have because not only is she a wonderful singer, the joy she has when singing makes you happy just to be there, even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket.

Mary said...

Thanks for the compliments, Nan.

Love you!