*This blog is not about Peace Corps or Paraguay or anything like that, but it is something I wrote this week and really wanted to share. I hope you enjoy.
My mother taught me to sing.
I grew up in music like a fish in water. From morning until night, there always seemed to be a song hanging somewhere on the air lazing through our quiet suburban house. My days ended and my nights began with my mother singing me softly to sleep. You see, my mother didn’t teach me scales, or how to breathe through my nose while projecting my voice, she didn’t teach me to control my diaphragm or to draw from deep in my body for every note. My mother taught me nothing technical about singing, she wasn’t that kind of a singer nor that kind of a person for that matter. It wasn’t about the physics of it all, it was about the feeling.
My mother didn’t teach me how to sing, but she did teach me how to let music into my heart. She taught me to allow every thought and emotion to become entwined with a song like ivy, like smoke gently rising. She taught me that any time of day, any moment, any menial task is infinitely sublime if only accompanied by a tune. Like some mystic always at work in her subtle art, she sung the flowers to humble bloom, the plates to sparkling clean, the clothes to ironed perfection and the children to bed.
My mother was not a perfect singer. She has missed many notes along the way, some sharp, some flat, but all of them just where they should be. You see, my mother taught me that it doesn’t matter whether you are Puccini or Cline or Sinatra or Holiday or even if you are tone deaf--if there is music in your soul, there is a divine obligation, a spiritual necessity to let it out. My mother sang sometimes as if her very life depended on it, substituting words to sooth her homesickness and holding on to each note with full-winded, white-knuckled tenacity. Other times, she would break rhythm and tone at will just to match her own whims and fancies. No matter the composer, each song was her own and she sang it for herself, for her family, for the world.
Sometimes I hated my mother’s singing. If it was joyful when I wanted to wallow, or heartbreaking when I was otherwise carefree. Sometimes, my mother would sing the same song, over and over, in succession. But now I know all the words to all those songs and I sing them to myself sometimes when I am far from home and most alone. I pretend sometimes that it is not me singing but my mother, and it brings me home, to my youth, to waiting for my father to come home from work, to gardening on the weekends, to coming in from the cold, to washing up after a long day, to singing along quietly so she never heard me and she never knew that secretly, I loved her singing with all my might.
I never learned how to sing but, I learned to sing, always and forever, whether silently to yourself or out loud for the world to hear. My mother taught me this. You see, there is so much music in my heart, in every thing I see and everything that I do, but it was not me who planted the seeds to these now glorious, musical flowers. It was my mother, sowing songs with such care into the evening dreams of her three sleeping children. I was so lucky to be one of them. I hope that one day I can give such love and beauty to my own children, that I can share with them the gift my mother has selflessly given me for my whole life.
Still, I never worry, for I know that all I need to do is sing.