Song Nights

1 July 2002

Good morning, good morning. I slept until 7:15 this morning. Call me Sloth Girl. Woohoo!

Well, it's been one thing after another here, some of them good and only a few not-so-good. I have a chiropractor's appointment for 3:00 (so Timprov has one for 3:15 or so), and the newspaper was not delivered and will not be redelivered. (They asked me to press the number for what language I wanted. Then they asked if I was on a rotary phone. Um. Did I just press a number? Why yes, I did. Sigh. We are "outside the redelivery area." Grrrr.) I had an unexpected phone interview with an educational publisher this morning -- I didn't even get to hear what the project in question was, but whatever, that's fine, I'm flexible. We'll see if anything comes of that.

Aaaaand...Tom at Future Orbits e-mailed me yesterday to say that "The Handmade's Tale" got an Honorable Mention in Dozois' Year's Best Science Fiction for last year (19th edition). So. That's pretty darn cool. I was happy with that. It's good when people like my stuff. Especially, you know, people who tell other people.

I had no fewer than five long-distance phone calls yesterday: both Scotts, Michelle, my folks, and my grandparents. That's a good kind of Grand Central, I think.

It actually feels like a holiday week to me. Not because of Mark's weird schedule, I don't think, although that's part of it. And not because of awareness that there'll be no mail on Thursday. It's because I sat on Timprov's bed and sang songs for a couple of hours last night.

When I was little, the last night of a summer holiday was always time to wind down. Usually we'd gone somewhere to see Grandma and Grandpa, or Grandma and Grandpa had come down, or at least we'd gone out to Ginger Cove with the Wileys. And then we'd come home and get into our pajamas. I think sometimes I went to bed and Mom would come and fetch me out again. I'm not sure. Either way, I was a little sleepy the whole time. Mom would hold me in the big cloth rocking chair, which was then blue, and Dad would sit in the wooden rocking chair with Ben at his feet. (Ben was our first dog.) And they'd just rock and sing songs.

I don't think there were rules about what songs they could sing, but it kind of worked out that way -- silly rowdy songs were for other times. Holiday nights were for gentle songs in tune, if not in contents. My mom knew all the really old pop tunes, "Come Away With Me, Lucille" and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and that kind of thing, and madrigals, and folk songs of course. My folks are on the young end of Baby Boomers, but some war protest songs were okay for holiday nights -- "Last night I had the strangest dream" and "One Tin Soldier" once or twice, I think -- and some were not. Some Paul Simon, some James Taylor, some Carole King. Some patriotic songs. Some gentle old hymns. Some old Irish stuff, but nothing from the Troubles. (My mother was a history/poli sci/criminal justice triple major, so she knows all that stuff.) Maybe they were trying to sing the baby to sleep, but it's entirely possible that they were just singing. Either way, I loved it.

I think it's good to have songs that you just know, that you can just sing with no introductory music and no sheet music and nobody prompting you on the words. I don't think it's bad to prompt people on the words the way Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie do on the "Precious Friends" album set. (They have the folk-singer line thing on a few of the songs, where they're saying the line just before you're singing it. It's a live album. Much fun.) I just think it's good not to need that all the time. I think it's good to have several lullabies on hand in case you need to sing someone to sleep and some rounds and some of what Pete Seeger calls zipper songs, because you can "zip" new words in and make new verses pretty much infinitely.

At Arlo's concerts, he always talks about music as a participation art and not just a performance art. I believe in that pretty strongly. It's clear where I got it, and it's definitely on my list of "things the folks did right, pass it on." But the holiday evenings of singing weren't just conceptually good. They weren't just a good idea. They're a concrete good memory, complete with heavy-lidded child-eyes and my folks laughing when they messed up a little. It's nice when the general and the specific intersect so clearly in real life and not just in fiction.

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