About 27 years ago a very good singer became a mother.
And she spent time singing songs to her daughter.
About 5 years later she was still singing songs . . . to two daughters.
Some of my first memories involve my mother's voice - story books with songs and sitting next to her in church - "The Hymn of Promise" and "All Through the Night."
When I did my graduate school voice recital I wanted to sing songs about children, but also songs about their parents.
I was finishing up my study of the Kodály method at the time (you can google that if you don't know what it is), and my head was full of ideas about the importance of music in the home life of each child - it's our start . . . we get our first ideas this way. Kodály believed that a person began to form an ear for music in the womb - from the voice of their mother. With all of this in mind, I chose a couple of settings of a lovely text, and my favorite setting is the Ives (video above).
It embodies all of my favorite things about my own mother.
I'm sorry - I've rewritten the next paragraph ten times now, and I don't think I'll be able to say what I want to. I don't know how. I'm just going to do this one stream of consciousness style . . .
I love my mom.
She has always allowed me to be who I am, and she has always been who she is.
Because of her I am not afraid to say what I mean.
Because of her I am not afraid to sing how I sing (and the older I get, the less apologetic I feel about not fitting a clear musical mold - again, something I learned from her).
Because of her I am not afraid to embrace the happy/sad of human life - this is maybe the most important thing. Our lives aren't perfect. We are not perfect. And my mom has never made me feel badly about that. In fact, she has encouraged me to be accepting of that. She has done this by speaking honestly with me and by living honestly in the midst of our family. Her example has given me a sort of freedom that I see lots of people lacking. In the world of grown-ups we forget the value of this sort of honesty.
Because of the way that my mother has been with my sister and me, I don't feel afraid about what my kid is going to be. She's been so accepting of us. Present but not pushing. It gives me this sense that I don't need to be afraid about my boy - he can be whoever he's going to be. My sister and I could have been athletic or artistic. We could have been gay or straight. We could have been anything in the world, and she would have been the same mother to both of us. This constant, accepting, source of grace. Not because she was trying to be perfect, but because she was just doing the best she could.
If I can give just that one thing to my boy, I'll be satisfied.
And I bet if you asked my mom if she thought she'd given all of that to me, she'd shake her head. Because we never can see the depth of the good we give to the people we love the most. But we do the best we can, and usually we manage to give more than we think we've given.
The big gifts don't come from pretending to be perfect.
The big gifts come from giving what we can in honesty . . . from living authentically. And my beautiful mother is one of the most authentic people I've ever met.
In so many ways, I want to be like her when I grow up.
Love you, Mom.