Sunday, May 25, 2008

American Idol

Since the season finale of season 7, I've been researching and remembering songs that suit my voice. Those who are close to me or who've known me since the high-school-solo days know that I have fancied myself a singer and that music moves me, more than any other art form. A close second is words/literature, specifically the conciseness and subtlety of poetry... but see, music can marry the two-- tune/melody with words, and thus, for me, its power is unmatched.

I am reminded of my little son, Jack. Over the last month or so he's begun bouncing to rhythms, both musical ones (a new song on the stereo) and ambient ones (two blocks struck together). His lullaby soothes him. He's only 8 months old, but he is sensitive to sounds. They clearly please him and comfort him. "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast" (Shakespeare), I suppose. Even Harper remarked the other night while I sang to the two of them, "Mama, I like when you sing that song because it makes me feel calm." Music must just be a part of our human nature: the desire to make and hear beautiful, organized sounds, just as we attempt to beautify and organize our surroundings.

As I weed my garden and plant new flowers, I am gratified by the changing shape of our yard, the way it begins to feel cheery or functional, bountiful, tame, or comfortable. Gardening is satisfying in similar ways to music and singing for me; both change the way I feel, both improve my well-being, both satisfy, both make me feel more like myself.

I haven't been singing enough over the past few years. Since college, I haven't been involved in any formal or organized singing group like a choir or a band. As a result, singing has been left to the spare moments, moments I have fewer of as I've had my children. I used to sing on my commute to work as a teacher. The half hour to and from afforded enough time to sing with my favorite songs. But since I've been at home I haven't had a commute to myself. I'm never alone. Trips to the grocery store are with my kids in tow, Harper narrating and questioning, all of us singing along with kids' music. Kids' songs don't have quite the sweeping power of grown-up tunes. There are no notes to hold or phrases to belt, no differences in dynamics whatsoever. The words are often just-for-fun, joyful, or didactic-- never the gritty stuff of adult music. I've actively missed music, and as I've begun carving out some singing time the past few weeks, I've realized that it's not something I want to leave behind anymore.

Over the course of this season of American Idol, I've begun to imagine myself a singer again, as far removed as it is from my day to day. This fall (season 8) is my last chance to actually audition because I am 28 years old. Knowing this is my last opportunity for the show has infused a little urgency and excitement into my thinking. I've always wanted to pursue something musical, and this year, I am going to do it. I know its bold to say this publicly, but I am going to go ahead and dream big, and I am going to practice and prepare. I am making some time for my lofty dream.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Getting Crafty

I didn't really know I had it in me, but over the course of a few days, I've become a hot glue gun junkie.

The other morning, I visited Erin Largoza and the kids played together while she showed me her latest obsession, making hair clips for her unborn daughter. After having two (beautiful) sons, she is expecting a girl and she's very hip on the idea of another female in the house. She had her supplies out and was tinkering with how to make it all work and what ribbon and buttons to pair together to make the cutest clips. She had a few already made and she made a couple while we visited. Harper left her house that morning with an Erin Largoza original hair clip in her hair, a very cute one with a blue flower on it. Harper wore the clip all day and I admired it, and then in the evening we had the Clark family over. Katia complimented Harper's clip and it occurred to me that I could make them, too!

So while I composed my own designs, I sat there thinking, why had I resisted this crafty concept? I concluded that I hadn't jumped at the idea because it feels so out of my personality to be buying ribbon and buttons, browsing the scrapbooking section of the craft stores. It feels like another kind of mom, inconsistent with the dirt under my fingernails. Since the only jewelry I wear consistently is my wedding ring and the bobby pin in my hair, I don't think of myself as particularly girly and I suppose I was thinking of the hair clips as a girly, feminine thing-- fun and attractive, but completely unnecessary. (Yikes, is that what "girly" conjures for me?) Added to the inherent girliness of the clips themselves was the girliness of the act of making clips as well: taking the luxurious time out to create something beautifying.

Irresistable side note: I remember when I read The Great Gatsby in high school, E's favorite book, and the character Daisy described what kind of daughter she wanted her little one to be-- a "beautiful little fool". As frightening as this was to conceive, that a mother would want her daughter to be nothing more than a shell of a person, existing for others' pleasure rather than her own, the sentiment mirrored my own conceptions about beauty and smarts: that they are incompatible. I realize I am entering into murky feminist territory here, where there is much to say and I really don't want to flesh it all out... I merely want to point to the fact that I have focused rather on my brain than my face. (No judgment here for the face-focusers. Ok, maybe a little.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I realized this week that I could be girly and submit to my visions of cute hair clips for my daughter, beautifying her without making her into a fool. Truth be told, I do want Harper to be beautiful. In fact, I think she already is and it's something about her that I appreciate. And beauty doesn't have to just be for the benefit of others. I think Harper will someday enjoy her own beauty (if I don't mess her up with some complex and society's definitions don't impose too much). And as for her mind, she's already proven to be a smart girl. She's two and a half and reading. We spend time learning together, more time than we do slipping clips into her hair.

And so I reconciled my concerns about beauty and brains: that both Harper and I could spend a little more time on the girly, fun beauty stuff like flowery clips and grograin ribbon and that doesn't lessen our smarts or tenacity, strength or cleverness. It simply means we can be beautiful and smart. Why not put the cherry on top?