I have story to tell, but it's a long one. You might want to get a snack before we start, and I, for one, will be keeping a tissue handy.
As you may remember, Sam and I have been taking a music class together. We are now in a new fall session with different kids and new songs, but with the same amazing teacher. I just cannot stress how much Sam loves this class. We have been playing the cd at home and in the car to learn the new songs, and Sam not only sings along, but "reads" along in the accompanying songbook. He also sings the songs on his own without the cd, while playing or eating or in the bath.
Often I will sing too, and Sam loves it when I make up new lyrics which correspond to what we are doing; for example one of the songs goes "apples and cherries, peaches blueberries, grapes and bananas, dee dee deedee dee..." so one night when I wanted him to stay focused on eating dinner, I changed the words to the food in his bowl, "noodles and tofu, carrot cabbage, tahini yogurt, dee dee deedee dee..." Sam thought this was the funniest thing, and kept eating and laughing---a dangerous combination I realize---even making up his own silly lyrics and cracking himself up. And really, that is one of the objectives of this particular music program: to completely integrate music with daily life.
When we are in class, Sam is very focused on Helen, our teacher (and he still calls himself Helen out of deep love for her sometimes), participates in the dancing and movement with boundless enthusiasm, and plays the instruments (his favorites are tiny cymbals and a tiny drum), but despite knowing the songs quite well, has not sung along to the songs in class. Actually most of the children don't sing along (the babies obviously don't, but even most of the older verbal children as well) although they clearly know the songs and enjoy class.
So, two of Sam's favorite songs are the Hello and Goodbye songs. These are the two songs that open and close class and which remain the same from session to session. The lyrics are happy and upbeat and consist of singing hello (or goodbye) to each child in the class by name, "Hello to Sam, we're so glad to see you! Hello to Ella, we're so glad to see you too..." If you told me 10 years ago that I was going to be sitting in a circle with a bunch of parents and little kids singing sickenly happy songs while clapping my hands with a huge smile on my face, I probably would have scowled, picked up a wheelbarrow full of dirt and run away from you up a steep hill. I am so ridiculously happy singing that damn song with a roomful of people who all smile at my son and sing his name and sing how happy they are to see him, and knowing the thrill he gets from that is enough to make my voice crack.
Well, this week, for the very first time, Sam sang in class. As usual, all of us parents and Helen started clapping our knees and singing "Hello everybody, we're so glad to see you! Hello to Joseph, we're so glad to see you too! Hello..." And then right away, rising up from the sound of the group, was one distinctive voice, one young little voice, singing with the right words and the right rhythm but a bit higher and slightly out of tune, one confident happy voice singing along, clapping his knees to the beat, singing how happy he was to see everyone. One voice, Sam's voice, singing along with the adults in the room. Helen noticed and gave him big smiles, other parents noticed and smiled at him too. I---I was bursting and grinning and giggling and tearing up and choking on the lump in my throat. All I could hear was this one clear high little-boy off-key happy happy voice.
And then he sang the next song and the next one. I could barely get the words out myself. I kept wiping the corners of my eyes, and I could barely contain my giggles. I should have remembered to take deep breaths--that might have helped. After singing along for three or four songs, Sam stopped singing and resumed his usual engaged but mute participation in class. Perhaps, sadly, my odd reaction to his singing suppressed him. Next time I must concentrate and not get worked up. Bad Mommy. Bad sappy Mommy.
Towards the end of every class, right before the Goodbye song, Helen dims the lights and we all make the sound of a gentle wind. Then we sing one of the quiet lullabies as babies and toddlers cuddle in their parents' laps. It's a sweet and tender time, babies often nurse, parents and children snuggle, the voices of a quiet lullaby fill the room. As for Sam, he decides, every time, that he needs to run pell-mell around the room. He throws himself at me, runs away, runs back, throws himself at me again, runs circles around me, darts between other people in the circle, and all the while I am dutifully singing the sweet lullaby and hoping he doesn't hurt anybody.
It's not that I wish Sam would act any differently during lullaby-time. Sam is a lover and I get plenty of cuddles and kisses with him. No, his wildness, his running around, his utter refusal to be touched with tenderness right then, his independence, is just so funny that it's absolutely perfect. I mean really, the singing, the clapping, the running? I hadn't laughed that hard telling Denis about our day in a long time. Couldn't have been more perfect.
Taking it all in, that's what this story is about. Taking it all in and reminding myself to breathe.