6.05.2006

Drink a car?

When Nathan was small, we were sure he was born to be a painter. His greatest joy in life (aside from milk and kisses) was to stare at the light. So much so, in fact, that we took to referring to lights simply as "Meepo spots." Church was his favorite place in the world, and he would happily stare at the candles throughout the service. And we thought, surely this child is destined for the visual arts.

But as it turns out, it's Isaiah who loves to draw meticulous designs on his magna-doodle, concentric circles and spirals, and mommy, please won't you show me how to draw a duck? He was even very careful to color in the lines when he got a hold of a ball-point-pen and a library book...

But Nathan is mostly into music. Sometimes he and I will sit together at the piano, and I find that it's a great excercise to try to improvise around the notes he plays. And I can actually do that, because it's not random. There's little skill in what he does, but much intention.

Last night we downloaded the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Bandversion of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The song is amazing. I've always heard it slow and poignant. And I love it that way. But the joyous abandon of this rendition, the utter jubilation, untainted by the slightest hint of wistfulness or regret... It's the sort of thing that suddenly shifts life back into focus, reminds you what matters.

Meepo liked it too, and he curled up on the couch, head leaning on the armrest, and stared rapturously at the computer. Just soaking up the music. When the song ended, he did his best to keep the music going himself. "Lo-ow! Chay-yuh!"

This morning he was wandering about singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He does that a lot, and with remarkably good pitch. But this was the first time the words were actually clear enough that I knew for certain that he was singing Twinkle Twinkle, not the alphabet song or Baa Baa Black Sheep. Actually, I always know he's not singing Baa Baa Black Sheep, since I don't actually sing that disturbing ditty to them, but the other two rhymes are quite muddled together. You see, I'm pretty sure that he initially learned the tune from a little electronic school bus that sings the alphabet. But whenever Andy or I joined him in his singing, we would unthinkingly wind up singing Twinkle Twinkle. I'd been a little curious as to which set of words he'd eventually pick up. This morning, when I heard him singing MY set of words, so clearly and distinctly, my soul swelled with triumph. What a superb role model am I, my son chooses to imitate ME, even over his favorite toy. Then I remembered that the singing school bus had fallen victim to a pouring experiment some weeks ago, so maybe that wasn't so significant after all.

At any rate, as he was singing, he approached me, clutching his empty cup, now drained of chocolate milk. He stopped, held the cup out, and looked up at me quizzically. He resumed his singing, slowly, emphatically, and questioningly, maintaining eye contact all the while, and punctuating each beat with a little bounce of his side-turned head.

"Drink a drink a... Drink a car?"

I thought maybe he was hoping I could explain the meaning of these bizarrely nonsensical lyrics, but Andy was pretty sure he meant to say "Drink a cup," except that the force of the rhyme required him to end in "ar." And indeed, why shouldn't he request a refill in this manner? After all, that's the sort of thing Andy and I do all the time, tweaking the words to silly songs, or making up our own, to say whatever it is we mean to say.

In any case, I went over to the fridge and fixed Nathan a second glass of chocolate milk. But by the time it was ready for him, he was busy at the computer.

Looking for Jerry Garcia, I expect.

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