Tag Archives: memories

That Song in My Head

Can we talk about music tonight?  We can?  Yay!  You guys are awesome!

Music has always been an integral part of my life.  Two of my earliest (and fondest) memories involve my musical maternal grandparents.  (I love alliteration.  Just sayin’.  Anyway.)

My grandfather was a quiet and rather strict man, whom I always approached with a great deal of respect and a smidgen of fear.  The one time he ever let down his metaphorical hair was when he would pull out his violin and give my siblings, cousins and me an impromptu concert, the highlight of which was “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  Try as I might, my little eyes never could catch his finger making the string “pop,” but I can still see his face breaking into a rare smile when he saw our awestruck faces over “Grandpa’s magic finger.”  My grandmother would follow the Weasel on the piano with songs that would set our little feet to dancing (and I use that term in the loosest possible manner).  One of my favorites was “The Doll Dance” by Nacio Herb Brown, who I later discovered wrote some of my favorite numbers in Singin’ in the Rain.  Those concerts were one of the few occasions where noise and chaos were allowed to reign supreme in my grandparents’ house.  When the music died away, we all knew that was the cue to go off to bed…until I was older and was allowed to stay up a little later to play Yahtzee, and then it was time to get the pajama pants beat off of me by my grandmothers.

When I was a small child (like, five almost six years old small), my parents started me in piano lessons.  I took to it like a proverbial duck takes to water.  There was one point early on where I remember wanting to quit because it was really challenging, and (not to toot my own horn) I wasn’t used to things being challenging.  I’m so glad that my parents didn’t let me give it up.  I fell in love with classical piano music and continued with piano all through high school, competing at local and regional levels before moving to competing nationally.

I had everything planned out…conservatory, winning fame at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and then dedicating a solitary life to music.  I had a reality check when I looked at the cost of tuition, and went off to join the Navy as a musician.  Naturally, the Navy said I had too much aptitude for electronics to be a musician, and being seventeen, I said, “Okay!”  It turned out fine and I got a very awesome career and an amazing husband out of that deal.  Today, I practice much less than six hours a day and I teach four little boys piano lessons every week.  The soundtrack is still the first thing I notice in every (and I mean every) movie that I watch.  Some of the best moments in my life come with a soundtrack of their own.  I’ve already mentioned “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “The Doll Dance,” but, being in a reminiscent kind of mood, there are a few more that I want to highlight here tonight.

  1. Ride in a Blimp by Lynn Freeman Olson.  This is the piece I played in one of my first piano recitals.  I got to use the black keys and the pedal, and my young ear loved that they created.  It had a picture of an elegant garden on the front, which had nothing to do with a blimp at all, but it was the starting place for many a princess daydream.  I just ordered the sheet music for my oldest son to use in our piano recital later this summer.  (*sniff*)  Incidentally, his copy does have a picture of a blimp on the front.
  2. Minuet in G by Johann Sebastian Bach.  This is the first classical (okay, technically baroque) piece I ever played and it is a favorite of all three of my boys today.  It is the first piece I remember my grandfather praising after I played it.  Praise from him was a huge deal, and it made this little minuet a big deal to me.
  3. Kokomo by The Beach Boys.  My Nana taught my little sister and me a line dance to this song.  It was an even bigger deal because she let us dress up in her crinolines and frilly dancing skirts when we performed the dance for our parents at the end of our weekend at her house.  Every time I hear this song, I think of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Nana’s gazebo with the bamboo forest and koi ponds, breakfasting on Lucky Charms in the sunroom, and her cat Kika of the blue and green eyes.
  4. Handel’s Messiah.  My children’s choir sang several of the songs from this epic cantata during our Christmas musical, and it was the first time I braved singing a solo in front of a large audience.  I got to wear blush because we were under a spotlight, and my red yarn bow tie didn’t want to stay under my collar where it was supposed to be.  I remember the candlelight, the smell of the pine wreaths, and the flash of pride in my director’s eyes when we were given the traditional ovation during the Hallelujah” chorus.
  5. Falling Leaves by Carl Kölling.  I won my first ever piano competition with this piece.  This was the day where I learned that jean skirts, while okay for church, were not okay for competitions.  I also realized that the waiting is infinitely less than the performance itself.
  6. In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.  When I was at music camp during my junior year of high school, my classmates and I performed this for the end-of-camp concert as a sixteen-piano ensemble.  It was big and loud and totally epic.  I loved every second.
  7. Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man and Hoedown by Aaron Copland.  These are the songs that made me love more modern (and I use that loosely) composers.  Before this, if it wasn’t written prior to the early 1800’s, I wanted nothing to do with it.  After I discovered Copland’s use of dissonance and harmonic resolution, my musical world expanded drastically.  I still had no idea what popular music was, but my repertoire expanded to include the music of composers such as Khatchaturian, Ravel, Debussy and Gershwin.  However, Copland has the ability to make my heart soar like few other composers.
  8. Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood.  This is the song that they played at the end of Battle Stations in boot camp.  It is the song that was playing when I received my Navy ball cap and was formally recognized as a United States Sailor.  It still has the power to make me bawl my eyes out every time it plays.  The Star-Spangled Banner is the only song that makes the waterworks start even faster.
  9. One More Time by Daft Punk.  I associate this song with being on my own for the first time.  After boot camp while I was in my first of many technical schools, the Gurnee Mills Mall in Illinois was a popular weekend hang-out spot for young sailors like myself.  Every time I hear this song it takes me back to those Jam Van rides to the mall, the mortification of being dragged into Victoria’s Secret by my friend for the first time, getting my hair cut at a “real” salon, and going to the movie theater for the first time since I was five, where I saw Disney’s Cinderella and was terrified by Lucifer’s huge gaping mouth when he tried to eat Gus-Gus.  (The movies Miss Congeniality, Save the Last Dance, Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns and The Emperor’s New Groove have the same effect.)
  10. Would You Go With Me? by Josh Turner.  This is the song that my husband used when he proposed.  This was only one of the best moments of my life, even though I had had a wisdom tooth out earlier that day and was loopy, bruised, drooling and in some serious pain.  I figured that if he could love me enough to propose when I was such a hot mess, everything else would be downhill from there.  Love that guy.
  11. Sweet, Sweet Baby by Michelle Featherstone.  I take it back.  This is the song that will bring on a crying spree faster than you can say “Quidditch.”  After Toddler (my first baby from scratch) was born, the hospital photographer did a photo shoot with his soft, yellow blanket, the hideous olive-green chair in the recovery room, and a battered wicker basket.  When she brought the slideshow of the pictures she’d taken, this was the song playing in the background.  I utterly fell to pieces.  I was so in love with my little guy already, but seeing him from her perspective tore me apart.  It still does.

There are so many more, but listing them will take more time and emotional energy than I am prepared to commit at this moment.  As it is, I’m this close to becoming a sloppy, teary mess all over this post.  Dang pregnancy hormones.

What songs are included in your life’s soundtrack?

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Being Neighborly

One memory that persists over time is baking cookies with my mom and sisters and then delivering them to neighbors and people from church.  It’s now time to confess that I have never done this as an adult.  Ever.  I started feeling pretty guilty about it this year…and at the same time, massively overwhelmed with the idea of baking for the thirty-ish houses in my neighborhood.  Finally, after much dithering, I decided to cut it back to four houses…three families whose kids play with Oldest and the elderly lady who lives behind me.

I decided that spritz cookies would definitely be on the plate.  We made them every year, and I have fond recollections of playing with my mom’s cookie press, making an unholy mess with colored sugar and burning my mouth on Red Hot candies.  Plus, I had four different cookbooks with the same recipe.  I took it as a sign.  I had never tried doing rolled gingerbread men before, but they’re cute.  I found a recipe that got pretty much unanimous outstanding reviews on Pinterest, so I decided to give those a go as well.  I kept them simple…just a little sugar glaze for face and buttons.  I toyed with the idea of doing sugar cookies, but thought they were just a little too close to the spritz.  Then, I had an epiphany in the form of…yet another Pinterest recipe…and a memory that shall haunt me to my dying day.  Long story…for another post.  When we were kids, we would also make candy cane cookies every year…half red (or green) and half white…twisted ropes of almond-flavored cookiness shaped into candy canes.  Except mine ended up being a melt-in-your-mouth minty vanilla.

I ended up delivering the cookies on Christmas Eve.  Three out of the four were kind of awkward interactions.  Time for another confession: I’m not a very social person.  In fact, I’m really introverted.  I can fake being a people person pretty well after my time in the Navy and corporate environments, but interacting with people drains me of all energy.  So, if left to my own devices…I don’t interact, which is why I don’t know any of my neighbors beyond sight and probably why this seemed so awkward.  What can I say?  I’m working on it.  However, the visit with my elderly neighbor was very nice.  I found our that her husband died earlier this year, and she lost a son last year…and she wasn’t feeling very festive.  I came home feeling massively grateful for my husband and boys.  I’m glad that I went through with being neighborly this year, and will definitely do it again this year…hopefully a couple of times.

A plate of Christmas cookies.

The plate of cookies I delivered to a few of my neighbors this year…spritz, gingerbread men and candy cane cookies.

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My Last Name

You can’t pick your last name.  It’s just one of those things.  I mean, I guess later in life you could go and change your name to Rainbow Sparkles if you really wanted to devote your time and resources to doing so, but for at least a portion of your life, you’re stuck with the name you inherited at birth.

Admittedly, some parents are kinder than others.  I went to summer camp with a girl named Kandy Kane one year.  (True story.)  My own father apparently told the doctor that my first name was going to be “Ima” or “Omy” because it went so well with our last name.  Thankfully, he didn’t actually go through with it.

However, boot camp is an awful place to have a last name like my maiden name.  I’m not going to tell you what it is.  Just know that it is synonymous with “sweetheart” or “adorable.”  It’s an amazingly cute last name!  And in a place like boot camp, where endearments are taboo, it is entirely the last name on the planet that you want to have.  It gets you yelled at…a lot.  Here’s how it usually went down.

SCENE ONE: Recruit Honeybunch is in Trouble

(It is early morning at Recruit Training Camp.  The sky is beautiful, making one almost forget that they have arrived at Destination Horror.  A new division is in formation on the grinder [a.k.a. the parking lot outside of the galley a.k.a. cafeteria].  The green recruits are being inspected by their Recruit Division Commanders [a.k.a. RDCs] prior to breakfast.)

RANDOM RDC

Halt, Recruit!  Why did you let that [insert rank here] get fresh with you?  Where is your military bearing, Shipmate?

(In a very carrying voice that is perfectly conditioned for teachable moments such as these.)

ME

[Insert rank here], it’s my last name, [insert rank here]!

(Quaking in my little boondockers, a.k.a. combat boots.)

RANDOM RDC

Do not lie to Lord Voldemort, Muggle!

[Whoops!  Wrong story.]

What do you mean it’s your last name, Recruit?  Nobody has a last name like that!  Certainly nobody would be stupid enough to come to boot camp with that last name!  Show me your name tape and identification!  If you have been lying to me, you will be doing pushups until you look like a linebacker for the [insert NFL team here]!  I’ll be all over you like white on rice!

(Still in teachable voice, but now two inches from Recruit Honeybunch’s face.  She should be able to smell the coffee on [insert gender here] breath.)

ME

Aye, [insert rank here].

(Shows name tape on utilities and pulls out ID from left breast pocket.  Hands to RDC.)

(Brief moment of silence.)

RANDOM RDC

As you were, Recruit.

(In a stage whisper.  Recruit Honeybunch scampers off after the rest of her division, who by now are three minutes into their allotted ten for breakfast.)

End scene.

(Director wipes a tiny tear from her eye.  Oh, wait…we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

Ah…memories.  Now that I’m married, my last name has changed.  While it wouldn’t get me yelled at anymore, my new name is such that hardly anybody pronounces it correctly on the first (fifth…sixth…maybe twentieth) try.  Oh, well.

ME

C’est la vie…c’est l’amour…c’est les pommes de terre.

(Shrugs.)

Sorry.  I couldn’t resist!

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Filed under Random, Stage Play