If the search for the Confirmation dress was agony, the search for shoes proved to be sheer ecstasy. After a rocky start at a shoe warehouse, we struck gold with black shoes at Payless. Comfortable, not too high a heel, and an open toe with a sliver of a platform. What happened on the way to Payless, however, was a moment too priceless for even Mastercard to calculate.
I was preparing to spend a week at a professional conference with other college writing teachers and program directors talking about pedagogy and texts (both the book kind and the social media kind) as well as visual rhetoric and the impacts of all of these on writing processes.
Before I left, I beseeched my children to counsel me on how to load my hand-me-down iPod Nano. I inherited it at Christmas when Santa tucked a bigger, better Ipod under the tree for my daughter. What with blizzards and my propensity for food-hording behavior in the face of inclement winter weather, I simply hadn’t had time to mess with it enough to load it with my music though I eventually discovered some perfectly tolerable vestiges of my daughter’s repetoire still loaded therein.
Time kept on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future as I tried to gather groceries and dry goods to keep my family alive during my absence and to consider the nuances of tiny toiletries that might or might not be offensive to the TSA. Even simple snacks seemed to rise to the level of potential biohazard and trip up my planning. Take the case of a banana, for instance: is the peel considered a container?
Frankly, up to this point I had eschewed any semblance of an iPod, deeming them unnecessary accoutrements. Years of vocalising had hardwired hundreds of songs in my brain, so something good was usually playing on the soundtrack in my head most of the time. I decided, though, that listening to music on the plane via a device seemed a good way to ignore any bouts of latent claustrophobia that might plague me and tune out the world or the person sitting next to me if he or she became too chatty.
Music has always had the power to calm and transport me from my earliest days of learning to play a steel-stringed acoustic guitar in second grade to my discovery in high school that I had a darkly rich operatic voice and into my early adulthood where I found singing pleasure as a member of a professional choral group.
I transcended the stresses of graduate school by joining Chamber Choir, a move that permitted me to sing alto on Orff’s Carmina Burana and Mozart’s Requiem (particularly meaningful that semester as I taught the play Amadeus in my literature course), and later Collegium Musicum, an a capella ensemble specializing in medieval and Renaissance music.
I reveled in the chance to perform in the university’s tradition of Christmas candlelight vespers, sporting my royal blue choir robe which perfectly masked my pregnant belly and the occasional baby kicks that punctuated the carols. When my kids were young, I settled into church choirs as my schedule permitted. Singing, after all, is defined as praying twice and serves as a tremendous antidote to the slings and arrows of daily life.
With a lifetime of spent in various and sundry choral groups, each with extensive repetoires, it’s rare that a song comes on the radio that I don’t know the melody if not the words. In fact, all I need to burst into song is the prompt of a couple of bars or a word or two of lyrics. It’s kind of like being a permanent contestant on the show Name That Tune. And, it’s not like I can’t carry a tune, you know?
However, during my many years at the helm of the mom taxi, I have been encouraged more than once by my passengers to refrain from singing. It has always been exceedingly difficult for me to squelch the urge to accompany any sound floating out over airwaves. I would usually honor the requests, however rude and insensitively rendered, and relent just to keep peace on the roadway though I always made up for being silenced— at Sunday Mass, no less, where I felt free to belt out any hymn at any volume, singing whichever part I happened to know as my kids slid under the pew with their eyes rolled back in their heads.
So it was almost the night before my take-off and we are running through what’s going to happen all week while I’m gone as we scoot up to the mall for the shoes. She has her iPod in hand and I can faintly hear something as she pulls out the ear buds to coach me with her Cliff’s Notes version of iPod 101. The melody sounds familiar, the sweet female voice beckoning, “Kiss me… under the milky twilight…Lead me out on the moonlit floor…”
I turned and gave her a quizzical look, wondering why the heck she who was fast approaching 15 would be listening to a song that was popular when she was barely a toddler.
And an early Mother’s Day gift she gave me to me just then. Her eyes locked with mine and she confessed she had scoured Internet to find the song and load it on to her iPod. Because it reminded her of me. Singing.
She turned the volume up full-blast and held out the ear bud in my direction, nodding her head, inviting me to sing. Gulping, I joined in, harmonizing with the lead singer’s sweetly breathy voice on the refrain, trying to steady my natural vibrato against the constriction of my throat and tension of my vocal cords as I mightily fought the urge to sob with reckless abandon.
The band’s name? Six Pence None the Richer. They might not be, but I certainly am. And then some.