Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sweet dreams are made of these

On Monday, we tried to take the children to @bristol, the museum where I had my "children are miracles" revelation back in May 2007, which I promised myself I'd take the kids back to when I got pregnant again. Well, I did- and soon, but didn't take the children back there. They had been warned that if they didn't behave, we'd go straight home. I redirected (sometimes really quite loudly and with a degree of bad temper) three times between the car and the entrance. We went home.
BUT we actually took a scenic detour via Stroud, which is one of the Cotswold woollen towns, and it's a nice place to visit. That is, of course, if you can find it because the signposts are impossible- driving you round and round in an ever-decreasing spiral until you're finally there. As Steve puts it, we should take my mum there. The architecture is nothing special, and it's built on a bloody big hill that slopes in every which direction, but it has an independent bookshop, AND a childrens bookshop, no less than three branches of the independent health food store (I have no idea why a health food store requires three shops, but I didn't like to ask) and a very cool boutiquey type place called Moonflower which again, has an obscene number of premises considering its a small business based in a single town. All the teenagers were distinctly alternative but were wearing bright colours and smiled lots, which struck me as unusual, and the walls were fly-posted by stroudwater textiles trust with poetry about wool and weaving and knitting. 
The soundtrack was provided by a brightly coloured teen with a guitar, sitting there singing Sweet Dreams (are made of this). Well. Very well, in fact, and I'm extremely judgemental of buskers.  (He got two quid from me, but was worth far more.)  It set my mind wandering to how strong a musical memory can be. When the Eurythmics wrote it, I was just a child, stil bopping along at school discos without a care in the world. When Manson covered it, it was the theme song to the end of my bitter, twisted abusive relationship, and I still can't hear it without shuddering. It brought back so many memories hearing it again: but at the same time, listening to it in the sunlight sung by a bonny young lad with absolutely no idea how dark and twisted human relationships can get felt good. It felt cleansing, and wholesome.
More importantly, perhaps, I've been thinking about the role music plays in our life as a family. None of my children play a musical instrument- Alex asked to take a break from violin lessons when we moved here, and Isaac was really too young at that time. We have my beloved  piano, which is desperately in need of tuning, and my saxophone mostly lives under the bed gathering dust and beetles. Nothing exceptional there, right? The thing is, during my teenage years music was THE most important part of my life, the defining facet to my personality, who I was and what I did. I sang with the school choir, the local choral society, conducted the school wind band and performed with various orchestras and bands, and it was a huge part of my life. It was also a bond with my parents, who loved me but found it hard to show it: my dad was a music teacher (like me, a solid musician but nothing outstanding- his talent lay in sharing his love of music with others) and mum is a talented amateur. These days, she's conducting choirs for fun- back then, she was just singing. I I broke my wrist badly when I was 17, which made everything more difficult- I have both strength and flexibility in that hand now, but not together, not the way it was. I have difficulty in taking the weight of my saxophone and keying with my right hand, for instance, and similar problems with the piano. What I do have is my voice.
My children have always had lullabies to calm and soothe them, just like my mum sang me to sleep when I was little, but for some reason I haven't done it as much with River. What I've found, though, is that the sound of my voice singing him the songs I love: the songs my mother sang to me, that her mother sang to her: will help him stay asleep. They ease his transition between sleep states, when he will often wake and call out for me, and they give him a greater gift as well. They're giving him a sense of continuity and of history, and of connection with his grandparents and the generations before. He won't understand this now, because he's a tiny baby boy lying on the floor chewing my feet, but one day he will.

No comments: