Cheryl Hughes: Time Again for a Song
Neither of my children sang much while they were growing up. Natalie did a semester of choir in high school, but she never sang outside of that. Nikki would sing along with characters in animated films, and later sang while she played guitar—she still does that a bit—but it was never the kind of singing I did as a child, loud at-the-top-of-your-lungs singing.
As a kid, I sang in the car, in the back of my uncle’s pickup, outside on the swing set, inside to my dolls, basically all the time. It was like breathing for me. Things were different in the fifties and sixties, though. We had radio and vinyl records. That was it. The song arrangements were simple, the melody lines uncomplicated, the words understandable. I could recreate a reasonable facsimile of my favorite song, and did quite often. My parents would usually give in to our begging and pleading to tune the car radio to WAKY out of Louisville while we were traveling from point A to point B. I would have the lyrics of a song memorized by the third repeat—oh, to have that brain in this body!
I remember my biological mom singing as she went about her daily chores. I don’t remember my grandmother singing, but I remember my grandfather singing while he rocked me. He sang folk songs, like “Ole Dan Tucker.” My stepmom never sang, but my dad sang a lot. He wasn’t a very good singer, but he put his heart and soul into it. He loved Roger Miller songs, like “Dang Me” and “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.” He would always laugh at the end of a few lines, and we would laugh with him. One of my favorite memories of him is the time my sisters and I climbed into the car he was warming up one morning when he was taking us to school, and found him singing the “Happy Anniversary” song from an episode of “The Flintstones,” a version set to “The William Tell Overture.” It was great!
My granddaughter, Sabria, sings like I did as a kid. If she doesn’t know the lyrics to a song, she just makes them up. Her favorite song at present is the “ABC” song, my favorite lyrical line being “EEQ.” I don’t always recognize the lyrics to what she’s singing, but I can just about always catch the tune. She’s got pretty good pitch. My husband, Garey, makes up little songs he sings to her while they’re spending time together. One of her favorites is “Pa and Bri Sittin in a Tree.” I hear her singing it occasionally while she’s playing.
While Garey’s mom, Agnes, was staying with us, it tickled her to see Sabria pick up objects that she would pretend were microphones then sing into them and clap for herself at the end of each song. Agnes has always loved music, and she sang a lot as a child. (Sabria’s second birthday is coming up soon, and I’m going to try to find a toy microphone for Agnes to be able to give her as a present.)
I’m trying to make the effort to recreate the musical atmosphere I grew up in for my granddaughter. I’ve moved a radio into the kitchen, where I turn it on while I’m cooking or loading the dishwasher. If Sabria comes into the room and there’s silence, she points to the counter and says, “On.” I tune it to different stations, just to get a feel for what kind of music she likes.
Already, one of my favorite memories came from Christmas night when Nat, Sabria and I were on our way home from my parents’ home in Taylorsville. Sabria wasn’t feeling well, and she had been crying for most of the trip. The radio was set to an all Christmas music station and “Frosty the Snowman” began to play. Suddenly, there was complete silence from the back seat. It lasted for the duration of the song. When the song finished, Sabria let out a loud cheer and began to clap. As the next song, “The First Noel,” began, the crying resumed. I don’t believe I will have a problem figuring out what kind of music she likes.