On the way home from Katryna’s house last week, we were listening to 93.9 The River, our favorite local station. On came “I Am the Walrus,” much to my delight. I’d actually written a whole scene in a novel ten years ago about how my narrator would analyze “Walrus” to her kids, pontificating on everything from the cello line to the King Lear references. So I was thrilled when Johnny piped right up from the back seat:
“Mom, is dere ewectwic guitar in dis song?”
“Nope,” I said, after listening a minute. “Just piano, bass and drums–those are being played by the Beatles. But they hired a string section–can you hear the violins and cellos? And listen! There’s a French horn!”
“And an alarm clock!” said Lila. “Why is there an alarm clock?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Lots of times the Beatles put things in the songs to be silly.”
As I wrote recently, I have been having grave doubts about my mission as Musical Mom. Specifically, why oh why did I give my children recorders for Christmas? “Toot, toot!” 24/7. Also, my son loves his new guitar, but everything I have ever been taught in my musical training says that we should not give instruments to be banged upon. We should withhold them until the child is eager to learn how to play them properly. But banging is pretty much all that is happening. Moreover, when I ask Johnny if he’d like to learn to play the guitar, he continues to strum atonally, calmly stating, “I know how alweady.” So I vacillate between the angst of my inner perfectionist and the primal joy of watching my kids make sounds.
That evening, Lila announced, “It’s Family Music Night. We’re all going to take turns playing our instruments for each other.”
This should have delighted me. Instead I checked my watch and wondered when I could declare enough enough and begin the bedtime routine. But my husband was game, so, as the author of a book called All Together Singing in the Kitchen: Creative Ways to Make and Listen to Music as a Family would be expected to do, I followed my kids into the music room.
No one could agree about who would go first. No one could agree about what the other would play. Finally, Lila suggested “I Am the Walrus” for all of us. I remembered I had a complete Beatles score, with the correct key for each song and all the parts laid out properly. With my reading glasses on, I found the song, deciphered the chords and began to strum. That song is hard! It’s in B, in some crazy mode that I am sure John Lennon invented in a psychadaelic haze. But we forged on, Tom on bongos, Johnny on his little acoustic, me on mine and Lila on violin.
“Where’s de siwwy alawm clock?” Johnny wanted to know. And we had to keep playing the CD to find the part (2 minutes in, I discovered) where the alarm clock goes off. Johnny announced he would “play” the silly alarm clock on his new guitar.
And then the magic happened. “Do you hear that?” I said as we played along to the end of the CD. “Those strings under ‘Juba juba’? I think you can play those, Lila!” And as I prompted, “A A A A, B B B B, C# C# C# C#,” she heard the part and began to play along, bowing her notes in time to those of the other violinists on the recording. We jammed like that to the end, all of us grunting, “Juba juba.”
“Again, again,” they cried when the song ended.
Inner perfectionist-0, primal joy +10. If this is “wrong,” I don’t know what “right” is. My family played a Beatles song together. Goo goo ga joob.