I’m not a morning person, as I think I’ve hinted at before. Neither is Kelsea, though interestingly, she used to be. As a baby, she would wake up early and happy, and I recall saying that I was so thankful for that, because her life would have been shortened significantly had she woken up early and grumpy. Now, as a teenager, waking her up is harder than waking myself up, and that’s saying something.
Nevertheless, I DO get up (and so does she). This morning, as I was puttering around the kitchen making breakfast (gasp! yes, it’s true) and doing dishes (gasp gasp!), I found myself singing. Now, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t sing. Nope. I don’t.
It’s not that I don’t have a nice singing voice. It’s actually okay, if I say so myself. I sing when I’m by myself in the car – along to the radio, or, back in the days when I didn’t have a car radio, as a radio substitute.
So I know my voice isn’t ghastly. It’s just that singing around other people makes me feel incredibly self-conscious. I could take this to the Red Couch and try to analyze why my voice makes me shy (always hated participating in class, you can’t get me drunk enough to do karaoke, etc.) but I always loved dancing on stage. We’ll just save that for another time.
Back to this morning. I was singing. I am not self-conscious about singing around Kelsea. (And Kelsea likes to sing – she’s been in choir at school for two or three years now.) I used to sing her lullabies when she was little – she used to ask for them. I think I am almost unconscious of singing around her. So, I was doing my own rendition of “The Lumberjack Song”,
and then launched into “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”,
when I realized that I was being like my Mother.
Usually my Mother was alone in the kitchen when she was cooking (lazy, unhelpful slugs that her children were). And so she would sing. I discovered, upon reflection this morning, that that’s how I learned and came to love so many old tunes from the ’40s and earlier – because she used to sing them in the kitchen. It was a lovely, warm feeling to know that somehow I had this part of her embedded in my soul.
Mother had a beautiful singing voice. She sang lullabies to us, just as I did to Kelsea, and just as E-Bro does to his kids. I was so homesick after I moved to Colorado, that she made a cassette of herself singing all of my old favorite lullabies. I have only played it once. It was entirely too poignant. But I have it. (Actually, I really need to rescue it from Pat’s house.)
Because I never sang around her, she never really knew what my singing voice was like. But I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday, one Christmas Eve. I was about 17 and I’d been in tears in the early part of the evening. I had been working my ass off at the restaurant over Christmas break, and just hadn’t been able to get in the Christmas spirit. That had never happened to me before, and I just didn’t know what to do. So I cried on my Mother’s shoulder. She was her usual sympathetic and encouraging self, and took her treasured little Nativity set and put it up in my bedroom to see if that would help. It did, a little.
Our family went, as we always did, to the late Christmas Eve service at Duke Chapel, and while we were there, the spirit came upon me.
I was singing “Angels We Have Heard On High” (or whatever the name of that carol is) and putting my whole soul into it (easy to do when you’re in a crowd). Standing next to my Mother, I looked over at her, and she was looking at me with this expression of love in her eyes that was absolutely indescribable. It brings tears to my own when I think of it now. And she smiled at me as she was singing, with her beautiful voice, and her smile reached her eyes and made them even more radiant.
On the way to school today (yes, we were late again, ) I told Kelsea that although she didn’t know it now, she would discover that she’s unconsciously listening to me sing and picking up on all these old songs, which are the ones my Mother sang in her kitchen.
When she’s in college, hanging out with her friends, someday, somewhere, she’ll hear one of those old, seldom-heard tunes, and it will strike a chord of amazement within her, and she’ll remember that her Mother used to sing that song in the mornings in the kitchen.
And the cycle of love will continue.