Tag Archives: music

Imagination Week: Wishes and Dreams

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I fell asleep earlier than intended last night. Hard. I didn’t even brush my teeth, except at 2:30 a.m. when I woke up and stumbled to the sink in a sudden panic at the thought of cavities.

A regularly scheduled Worry Wednesday post will come later today, but in the meantime, I wanted to share this song my 6-year-old was singing to herself a few weeks ago.

I reminded her about it this morning by singing it back to her as I woke her up, and she said, “Dad, dreams don’t always come true.” She thought I’d made it up and had no recollection of the song itself.

I’m glad I’m writing these things down.

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Carol Week: Freaky Friday

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Kids singing in unison can be sweet. It can also be creepy. It depends on the time of day they’re singing. And the listeners’ frame of mind. And how in-key they are.

It’s not just singing, either. My girls can be very sweet in their general interactions, but they can also freak me out.

Two or three nights ago, my 6-year-old was being mildly rude to my 4-year-old as they got ready for bed, so I dropped some fatherly (though admittedly made up, as I’m an only child) wisdom:

Me: Treat her well. You’ll be sisters your whole lives.

Firstborn: I hope we die together. Like if someone shoots me with an arrow, it goes through me and hits her, too.

Second: Maybe she can be standing in line, and I’m right behind her, and the arrow would go through us and make a big hole.

Me: Uh … that’s … a nice … thought?

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Carol Week: Away in a Manger

 

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The decorations have been slow to come out this year, for some reason. Actually, I know the reason: our thirdborn, the 1-year-old. He’s not Christmas tree compatible, and a Douglas fir or whatever tends to be the centerpiece of the seasonal decor. We’re still planning to get a small version—something that would fit on a tabletop—but in the meantime, the nativity sets have been trickling out. My wife and daughters put up our first string of lights yesterday.

We have been listening to carols every night. After story time, the girls like it if one of us stays in the room for a while as they fall asleep. I tend to sit in a chair in the corner of their room and work on a writing project or play some mindless video game, and since Dec. 1, I’ve added playing carols, softly, to the routine.

Not much else, today. Last night was a very late night for various reasons, and a slice of life is what I’ve got in me this morning. May your day be merry and bright …

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Carol Week: Worry Wednesday

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“Oh my / friends I’ve / begun to worry right.”

What you might know about me: I’m a bizarre sort of perfectionist and I frequently feel guilty, whether I have a reason to or not. Despite my knowing that I’m not Atlas, that the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders, I walk around hunched like it does. Like if I don’t hold it all together, everything will start to fall—at least my corner of it will—and it will be nobody’s fault but my own.

Every year, I make myself wait until after Thanksgiving dinner to listen to Christmas music. Then I stop as of Dec. 26. I’m a big fan of Pandora, and my favorite two holiday stations are based off of Sufjan Stevens and Bing Crosby, respectively. While Sufjan’s “Sister Winter” is probably my choice song for the season—aside from the traditional “O Holy Night,” which I’ll take in any form—perhaps the song I most look forward to is an outtake of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing “Jingle Bells.”

I first came across the song in my Pandora shuffle a couple years back, and I’ve since sought it out. My Secret Santa at the office got me an MP3 download of it last year. The song moves along like a normal take on the tune, but there’s a hiccup here and there in the timing. You can tell Bing Crosby is sort of giving up after a while, because he throws in a joking “Yeah!” at one point after a flubbed cue, and as the wheels fall all the way off the cart, he sings “Holy Jesus Christ!”—prompting an “Urk!” from one of the sisters.

Sufjan sings: “All my / friends I’ve / returned to Sister Winter. / All my / friends I / apologize, apologize.”

Bing Crosby is calling out to Jesus flippantly, but I like the element it adds to the effort, like a sheepish plea to the original manger-born inspiration behind the ancient carols that have since given way to more generic winter melodies and lyrics.

Some church music has an odd history. There are hymns that actually began as drinking songs, freshened up with new lyrics. “What Child is This?” is set to the tune of “Greensleeves,” which was a slang term for a prostitute—or at least a woman willing to lie down in the grass, getting stains on her clothes.

The history and evolution of sacred music, the way it intertwines with popular music, is messy and surprising.

It’s not perfect.

I like that.

I didn’t realize until recently that one of the signs of the season for me is hearing a song that wasn’t intended to be heard. An outtake. A mistake.

I look forward to hearing it in my random shuffle of holiday music, even though it’s technically flawed. It’s profane, in the literal sense of the word. And yet.

The awe and wonder of this time of incarnation isn’t dimmed. Atlas can indeed shrug*. The plan, after all, was not for a baby to be born in a stall intended for livestock.

Sufjan sings: “And my / friends I’ve / returned to wish you all the best! And my / friends I’ve / returned to wish you a happy Christmas!”

 

* I can’t stand Ayn Rand by the way. At all. It’s a “Wonderful Christmastime”-level can’t standing.

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Carol Week: The Non-Play List

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I mentioned yesterday that I can’t stand “Wonderful Christmastime.” The synthesizer, the lyrics, the overall cheesiness and dated feel of the song—I can’t take it.

But my least favorite song of the season is “Christmas Shoes.” It’s not technically a carol, I know, but it’s terrible. It’s sappy and saccharine and tragic and features a whole choir of children singing the chorus at one point. And it inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe, who was wonderful in West Wing and Parks and Recreation but makes bizarre career choices—like the remake of Salem’s Lot.

I can’t stand Christmas Shoes for a multitude of reasons, including the narrator’s belief that his encounter with a kid whose mom is about to die was a wake-up call for his benefit: “I knew that God had sent that little boy to remind me just what Christmas is all about.” Really? I’m so glad a desperately poor child with a terminally ill mother restored your holiday spirit.

I also don’t like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” because the man singer sounds so creepy—pushing alcohol on his female guest and invoking his own wounded pride as a reason she should stay with him. At one point she asks, “Say, what’s in this drink?”

Get out! Get out now!

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This is my firstborn

This is my firstborn

In Ben Folds’ “Still Fighting It,” he sings, to his young child, “You’re so much like me. I’m sorry.”

I love the song, and I love that line, though my enjoyment of the words was pretty much abstract until my first daughter came into my life and showed me what I would have been like if I had been born a blond girl.

Some of it is positive, I think. She genuinely laughs at what I laugh at. She’s into bugs and sharks and owl pellets. Her favorite part of “The Empire Strikes Back” is at the end, when Luke gets his new robotic hand, and she can perfectly imitate the twitches he makes as the droid jabs his fingers to make sure the synthetic nerves are working. She tells stories and gets lost in the telling.

She also gets frustrated like I got (and get) frustrated. She gets inordinately angry when she doesn’t immediately grasp and master a new skill. Being right is incredibly important to her in every discussion/debate/argument. Vitally important. As important and inevitable as gravity.

Throughout my childhood, my parents often told me that they hoped I’d someday have a kid just like me. It was a blessing, I think, and a curse. While my firstborn daughter—my firstborn child—looks like my wife, she acts like me and seems to think like me. I can’t tell if it’s nature or nurture. Sometimes (as when she suddenly exclaimed, on the way to kindergarten, “Dad, the future turns into the past!”) I am thrilled to hear my voice echoing somehow in hers. She’s fascinated by science. She falls asleep reading, with her book still propped upright in her hands—an ability I’ve only seen demonstrated elsewhere in myself (actually, I’ve been told of it, since I’m unconscious when it happens).

But she is so, so stubborn. When my wife and I are feeling charitable, we call her “willful” or “persistent” or “committed.” But most of the time we just say she’s stubborn—though we do take comfort in knowing that the challenging qualities of today will someday benefit her when she’s a supreme court justice.

An anecdote to end this on:

I once gave her a dollar I had in my pocket when I got home from work.

Her: Oh, thank you! You’re my best daddy!
Me: Oh yeah? Who’s your not-best daddy?
Her: You, sometimes.

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