Monday, June 13, 2011

Hear the Music

I was surrounded by music growing up. My parent's collection of old 78s, both opera and classical albums, are still in the den. There were holidays, with my mother and her sister's belting out one Yiddush tune (Bim Bam...Bim Bam...Bim Bam) after another. Somehow, the singing got louder after the first glass of Manischewitz....hmmm. I once tried recording them, but learned you had to put the cassette in the tape recorder in order for it to work...duh.

My Uncle Bob had a deep voice and led Passover seders like the chazans of old, and I'm told there was an opera singer in the family, but don't know if that's myth or reality. I had a pink plastic radio in my room; my friends and I played jacks to the Beatles and Lovin' Spoonfuls. And who could forget the transistors we all brought to the beach, each blasting songs picked out by Cousin Brucie, Cousin Brucie, Cousin Bruuuuucie.

But my strongest memories of music have to be of my mother singing. She had a beautiful soprano voice and loved to sing. Hers was the voice that stood out in temple, even when the choir soloist was singing. Hers was the voice that interrupted my father as he began leading the seders. "Is it time for a song?" she asked. He voiced annoyance, but after a while he just gave in. It was who she was; it is who she is. It's something my brother and husband are now adjusting to as they lead the seder, and she interrupts: "Is it time for a song?"

She still loves to sing, even if no longer in tune. I remember that on an eight-hour car ride to Maine, she managed to sing for three of them. You said a word, she had a song with that word in it, and promptly began to sing. If there is music in the air, she is singing along. If there is no music, she makes her own. And while the words to the songs are not all there, the music is still in her heart.

This past Valentine's Day she had a wonderful treat arranged by the president of her temple. Some volunteers from Sweet Adelines (they're the ones dressed in red; mom's in blue), came to the house, red rose in hand to serenade her with love songs. They sang two songs, which brought tears to her eyes, which brought tears to my eyes. She asked them to repeat them so she could join in; my brother arrived, and she asked them to sing again, so he could hear. It was very touching, but also very typical of my mother. Hear the music; embrace the music; be the music.

When I was a child, her bursting into song would make me run for cover; I've seen the underside of many a table. And I have to admit that there are times that I still cringe. But now that I am older and sing and dance to the music in the department stores (to the extreme embarrassment of my own daughter...Moooommm...), I get it. I understand the joy, the pleasure, the happiness when one is singing.

As I age, I want to remember to keep the songs in my head and in my heart. I want to keep singing, even though I'm off key and sound the best in the shower (TMI, Perri would say). I want my favorite songs playing, even if I know longer remember the words. I want to hear the music.

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