When I was pregnant with Liam, his daddy and I spent a lot of time wondering what kind of kid he would be and thinking of all the wonderful things that we would share with him once he was here. Music was at the top of our list and we started while he was still in the womb, playing music that we wanted him to hear. Our tastes are very different and very far-ranging, so Liam was serenaded with everything from Vivaldi to the Beatles, from Del McCoury to Ozzy Osbourne, from Patsy Cline to Billie Holiday. Sweetie has a wonderful voice and me, well, not so much, but we often sang to him as well.
Although I had many apprehensions about becoming a parent at my advanced maternal age, I never worried overmuch about loving my child. S/he would be born and it would be love at first sight, no questions. And it was. But I was totally unprepared for the absolute shock of recognition that hit me when I saw his face for the first time. The nurse laid him in my arms and the first words I said to my just-born son were, "Where've you been? I've been waiting so long for you." I knew him in a way that is impossible to explain to anyone who hasn't felt it, but equally impossible to deny, and I believe that he knew me in just the same way.
Liam was born at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, and within minutes of his birth the room was full of his grandparents and my girlfriends, all of whom had been waiting patiently since the wee hours for him to make his appearance. The entire day is now a blur of nonstop visits-my daddy, who hit the road as soon as he was called, assorted aunts and uncles and friends. Finally around 8:30 I had had enough company and shooed everyone out, sure in the knowledge that the next day would bring more company and ready for some down time. I even sent Sweetie on his way, down to the pub with a pocketful of cigars. Finally I was alone with my son, and I picked him up and held him close to me and I danced him slowly around the room and began to sing to him.
He looked up at me and I realized that he knew my voice, and he knew this song, the song that Sweetie and I had sung to him a thousand times while waiting for him to make his appearance. And he sighed a sweet baby sigh, and closed his eyes and slept as he danced for the first time with his mama.
We don't dance much anymore, except when he feels the need to show me the crazy chicken dance or some other silliness. But his love for the Beatles endures, and his taste in all things musical is quite clearly developed. Since he was wee we've played music at bedtime, beginning with Celtic Lullaby, then a jazz tape that my daddy made for him. For awhile the bedtime favorite was Daddies Sing Goodnight, and I still love Seldom Scene's version of Sweet Baby James that's on that disc. Once he got a little older he starting choosing his own bedtime music, and it ranges from Norah Jones' Come Away With Me to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue to Sara Evans' No Place That Far. There was one looooooong stretch of time when he wanted to hear A Charlie Brown Christmas every.single.night. I expect that to start up again around Halloween.
When Liam was three, he and I listened to the soundtrack from O Brother, Where Art Thou? every Sunday while on our way to church, and he soon began requesting songs by name. Druring that same time he sat with me and watched Alison Krauss on TV, singing Down by the River to Pray a cappella, with a choir joining in at various points. He watched transfixed until the very last note, then turned to me with a face full of wonderment and just said, very quietly, "wow."
Wow, indeed. That's the power of music.
It tickles me to pieces to hear him tell his daddy to "turn it up" when a favorite song comes on the radio, and we both laughed our heads off at some of his assessments of the singing talents of certain American Idol contestants. I love watching him play air guitar right along with Jimi Hendrix and I especially love to hear him sing, even when I don't love the song (yes, I mean you, Hey Bulldog). I even like to hear him express a negative opinion of particular songs (especially from, say, the Kidz Bop commercials), because it means that he's actively listening and choosing. It's really fun to watch his taste develop and evolve. Parenthood is full of joyous serendipities, and having our son embrace our love of music so whole-heartedly has been one of the best ones yet.