art songs

For Mom, on her birthday:

My mom told me that when she was pregnant with me I would kick her in time with the church organ.

My mom told me a story that I now tell anyone who will listen.  It is about me when I was a toddler.  I didn’t like being alone.  If I was bad, my parents would threaten to close the door during nap time.  This achieved its desired result because to me a closed door meant being cut off from the world.  During this stage of my life, Mum and Dad sang me to sleep every night after the Lord’s prayer and final bathroom run—which had various code names like “Ooka laka.” (Don’t ask.)  After this ritual, Mom often rested on the rug next to my bed until I fell asleep.  If she didn’t, I wouldn’t.

On this specific occasion, my mom thought I was asleep.  She got up and started to quietly leave the room.  I noticed and said, “Mommy, back to your mat!”  That was the last time Mommy slept on her mat.

But the singing didn’t stop.  I don’t even remember what my parents sang to me besides Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. There were a good number of hymns, like A Mighty Fortress is Our God, often sung in harmony.  I remember one non-hymn that Dad sang by himself.  It went:

       Everybody ought’a know,
everybody ought’a know,
everybody ought’a know,
who Jesus is.

That is what he sang.  What I heard was different:

Everybody on an ‘O’
everybody on an ‘O’
everybody on an ‘O.’
Who Jesus is.

I pictured a bunch of people floating down a river on inner tubes.  I was confused as to what Jesus had to do with the whole affair.  Surely, if he walked on water, he would not’ve needed an inner tube.  That plus the sentence fragment at the end.  Poor writing.

There is also the story in which both my sister and I were very small and my parents had to travel, leaving us with Someone Else.   They recorded their bedtime songs on a tape to be played for us at night.  We weren’t fooled.

In the Ernest music library, there were many books of vocal music with piano accompaniment.  Mom sang and Dad accompanied.  I didn’t understand what words the syllables formed because they were mainly in German.  Schubert’s lieder were favorites.  I didn’t know what lieder meant.  Nor did I understand what an “art song” was, and that’s my own language.  Is it called art because the words don’t make sense to you but you ooooooh and ahhhhhh and clap at the end anyway?

I don’t remember when it happened, but one of the saddest parts of growing up was when the bedtime singing stopped.  It obviously had to happen sometime.  There is a certain point when making your parents sing you to sleep becomes socially unacceptable, kinda like breastfeeding.

I’m writing these thoughts down because I don’t know how to write “I love you Mom” without sentimental filler.

That said,
I love you so much Mom.

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