This morning E and her class went on a field trip to a local community theatre to see the production of “The Emporer’s New Clothes”. I went with them and took a few shots of the kid and her trusty sidekick, and a few shots right before the curtain rose. After the show was over, her preschool teacher who moonlights as a stage director and set designer, set the kids up with a backstage tour so we got to visit the prop shop, the green room and a nice long hallway with lots of lockers and a few closet doors…good times.
On the way back to school my two passengers discussed some pretty deep topics in the back seat. I listened in a bit as their voices filtered in and out of my NPR show on the front speakers. There was some dinosaur discussion, which naturally led to the topic of death and how and why they died. And how and why we die. And then the fact that Jesus is dead as well, but that he died long after the dinosaurs died. And how he did not die when he was just a tiny baby in the manger. And just how large dinosaur bones are and how deep they are buried. And then back to how dinosaurs died but were probably all like “wow, look at that big meteor coming down onto the earth except that they didn’t call it a meteor because they didn’t know that word yet, and besides they couldn’t talk like humans anyway so they had no words, and humans weren’t even born yet, not even Jesus.” (And I must say that I was thrilled to no end that the two of them, if forced to, could come out of the Creation Museum unscathed and unwavering in the knowledge that Adam and Eve did not own a pet T-Rex.) This conversation was split equally between the two of them, each phrase stated with the faint lilt of a question at the end before the other chimed in with the next observation. It seems to be a frequent conversational mode with the four and five year old set – this sort of jumble of declarative sentences delivered in such a way that they require an “um,hmm”, or a “you’re probably right” or a simple nod of the head. Having the second kid in the backseat got me off the hook for these required responses. I didn’t have to engage because they were serving as their own sounding boards. I was free to tune back into my public radio show until the conversation on dinosaurs and death died out and E requested some tunes. I hit the CD button and found that the Juno soundtrack was back in place. The first track began.
Now, a brief note on this movie / soundtrack: We (as in the two adults in this household) loved the movie Juno. We (as in the two parents in this household) would never let our child watch said movie…at least not until she’s thirty. But aside from some poor teenage judgement and a rather creepy performance by Jason Bateman, the flick was very entertaining and the soundtrack rocked. And while The Moldy Peaches are not really a four-year-old kind of band, the tracks on this CD are pretty tame (we skip #8). They are folksy and quirky and have a lot of harmonica and in my opinion are much more tolerable and less insidious as say, having to listen to High School Musical, or even worse, some Disney movie theme song (all of the above being banned from our very existence). That she can belt out every word to a K.T. Tunstall song, slide her voice trumpet-like through any of the older Al Green, oscillate between the voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, or develop hand motions to accompany They Might Be Giants’ choruses is less a testament to our musical diversity than to our musical laziness. We buy a new CD and then play it over and over again in the car. We all know all the words. We all sing them constantly in our head. My iPod has the same songs that my husband downloaded onto it when he gave it to me over a year ago. And I’m okay with that. Repetition is fine as a backdrop to my inner thoughts.
But back to Juno.
If I were a flower growing wild and free
All I’d want is you to be my sweet honey bee
And if I were a tree growing tall and green
All I’d want is you to shade me and be my leaves
The song starts right into these words, with no accompaniment, and then in between verses the harmonica rocks a great little tune. As soon as the words started, E was singing them loudly and sweetly at the same time. I watched them in the rear view mirror. She sang the words right to him, and he watched her with a smile. And when the harmonica would begin he’d start to sway to the music, jamming with his hands and rocking out with his head.
If you were a wink, I’d be a nod
If you were a seed, well, I’d be the pod
If you were a castle I’d be your moat,
and if you were the ocean I’d learn to float
By this time they were both jamming away, heads bobbing simultaneously to the music. It was their song – perfect for them and their friendship. When they are together they stand so close, they finish each other’s sentences, they laugh at their inside jokes. I love their friendship, I love the way they sparkle when they are together, how passersby smiled this morning as they watched them run up and down the hill together holding hands while they waited for the van with the rest of their class to arrive for the play.
Different kinds of music spawn different kinds of conversation – and explanations about metaphors, irony, the melodrama of teenage angst, even the humor of different pronunciations of the same word (toe-may-toe, tuh-mah-toe). And when you start to understand how and why language, especially language set to music helps you to express the way you feel at a certain moment, it allows you to comment later “You know mom? Me and O, we’re just two peas in a pod.” Exactly.