I could make this a very short post:
I can’t yodel.But I’m a wordy person, so I’m guessing I’ll have more to say than that.
I can’t yodel. I can’t sing either. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Or sing to save my life. Or any other cliché involving singing.
I have the great luck to live with three very musical people. My kids have inherited a natural talent from their father, who can ignore his guitar for weeks, pick it up again, and play better than he did before (sickening, isn’t it?). Child One participates in two choirs and two bands and plays guitar, bass, clarinet, and some piano. His weekly repertoire ranges from very, very formal choral music to Led Zeppelin. Child Two sings in a choir, plays piano, and plans to add flute next year.
And then there’s me. I can’t sing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sing. I sing a lot. I sang to my kids so much when they were little that they’d ask me to stop. When Child Two learned some music vocabulary, she informed me that I sing off-key. At least I sing better than the cats, two of whom yodel regularly, usually in the middle of the night.
I don’t sing in public much, though, unless I've been drinking, which I don't do much either. I still haven’t recovered from the horrific Christmas concert of 1976. I was supposed to sing a duet of "O Holy Night"—in French—with Peter Whathisname, but Peter decided at the last minute to just mouth the words. There I was, 12 years old and trying to reach those high, high notes, in French, all alone, in front of what seemed like a huge audience, with Peter Stupid Whathisname standing silently beside me. I prefer not to do my singing on stage anymore.
In the past, I would have said that I can’t play an instrument either, but the way I think about it now, I don’t know if I can play an instrument because I’ve never really tried.
Oh, there was my very brief clarinet period in elementary school, followed by my even briefer French horn period (was it the French horn? I don’t even know for sure. All I can say is that it was a real pain to carry). My excuse for quitting clarinet was that I couldn’t play it anymore when I got braces. But when Child One got an even bigger set of orthodontic devices, his clarinet playing got better, so maybe the truth was that I just sucked at it.
What I really wanted to play was the flute. The popular girls—the ones with perfect teeth—played the flute. Oh, how I envied them as they carried their graceful little cases while I lugged my whatever-that-instrument-was to school. Alas, we didn’t have money to rent an instrument so my choices were limited to what the school could lend me. But I didn’t want to take band anyway. The only good I saw in it was that my stepsister, who was learning the violin, and I could clear out the entire house in minutes merely by playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” together.
These days, trying the piano is on The List of things I’d like to do. I have a book, I have two kids who can help me—now I just need to make the time. I figure that once I’ve given it a good try, I’ll be able to say whether or not I can play an instrument.
What I can do is make up ditties, usually about the kids or the cats. We had a whole series of songs about our last cat sung to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” In progress is one about Jamie sung to “O Canada”—it’s especially popular because it includes the always-funny word fart (does that count as sacrilegious, do you think?). I inherited this skill from my father, who penned the ever-popular “Brother Michael/Sister Suzy” pair of songs (there must be a word for a pair of songs. See how little I know?).
Maybe I can’t sing well, but my life—and, every evening, our house—is full of music. How lucky am I?