I used to think that one could only be “beamed” up to another place and time using a Star Trek transporter but I was wrong. Music has the ability to do that too. And I’m not talking about nostalgia or even memories – I’m talking about being moved to another dimension – in this case, my past.
The other day, while listening to Radio Canada in French (RDI), I happened to hear a song that instantly transported me back to my childhood. The song that did it? An old Gospel spiritual – “Dem Bones”, also known as “Dry Bones.” As I sang along, building Ezekiel’s skeleton one bone at a time I was suddenly nine years old again. I could see Mom sitting on the couch surrounded by four children (the other three wouldn’t arrive for a few more years). She was singing to us. Dem Bones.
My mother sang to us every night − either as a form of entertainment or as a way to get us to fall asleep − from her own version of The Great American Songbook.
These songs fill my head from time to time, a melody here, a familiar strain there, and I’m not talking nursery rhymes or “Wheels on the Bus.” No, Mom gave us rousing renditions of the songs that meant something to her, and each one of them came with a story.
“Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever Will Be, Will be)
“Mom, Mom?” we’d ask. What are we going to be? And she’d reel off a list of fantastic careers that left us slack-jawed and wide-eyed.
(You’ve Got) “That Magic Touch”
When she sang it, she substituted our last name for the word “magic”. It made it our song.
This song tells the story of a bad woman with a beautiful face. The woman with the beautiful face was her of course. As for the rest, she was nothing but good.
We all asked for jars to catch moonbeams.
The story or lesson here was you had better be nice to everyone.
“Sha boom Sha boom” (Life Could Be a Dream)
Mom called this the “happy song.” The first few bars are in a language we never understood, but were so fun to sing. Whenever I’m in a good mood I always sing this song.
This was the song she reserved for the days the dog ate our homework or we failed to make the basketball team.
As I sang along to Dem Bones, I wondered how many mothers today sing to their children − real songs with special meanings that their children can carry with them for the rest of their lives, the songs they will call on when they are happy or sad, scared or spellbound. The ones they will still hear even when she’s no longer around to sing them.
Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Necip Yanmaz