The songs that binds us, Part II - FamilyEducation

The songs that binds us, Part II

February 06,2008
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Sunday morning I suddenly found myself with one of those rare peaceful moments that occur only when both kids are playing well together--that morning they were in T’s room with her Dora the Explorer dollhouse (not the recalled one--I made absolutely sure our Dora is lead-free). I turned on the stereo in our bedroom, got out my Swiffer, rubber gloves, and assorted other cleaning accessories, and went to work on our room and the master bathroom.

Our NPR station plays beautiful music on Sunday mornings. L.'s favorite is the show "Sing for Joy." Many Sundays, like this one, I will wake to find him by my bed.

Mama! It's after 7:00 and Sing for Joy is on!

When I do get up, some minutes later, I might find him busy in his room reading Space Launch! some piece of heart-wrenchingly beautiful music rising up into his room from the old Sony CD player we gave him.

This past Sunday morning, while I cleaned, I listened to Mozart's Requiem. This was my all-time most favorite piece of music to listen to when I was a teenager and felt dark and misunderstood. I'd shut myself into my room, put in the CD, and turn it way up. Then I'd sit in the my room and pour out my heart into my diary, things like:

Why doesn't anyone EVER understand me? (And the word EVER of course would be heavily underlined in thick black marker)

or

I'll never fall in love. NEVER! I hate my life!

(Ditto the word “Never”)

And my heart would expand and wrap itself around the stirring notes of Mozart's music and it would swell and fill up my chest and threaten to burst. I'd pour out my sadness about being misunderstood, or not in love, or rage about existential angst about life and death and the meaninglessness of it all. It was cathartic, Mozart's Requiem. When I did emerge from my room, some time later, I felt purged of it all; reconciled with how unfair the world could be.

I didn't feel any of that old angst this past Sunday morning, though. The music helped me clean, and I felt the same old almost unbearable beauty of it grab hold of me. When the notes rose in crescendo I'd frantically push my Swiffer further under the bed and pull it out and rejoice in the number of dust bunnies clinging to the sides. I scrubbed the toilet and hummed, I sprayed bleach and thought about my 16-year old self, back in my old bedroom, my whole life before me.

Suddenly my reveries were broken by the sound of screaming, just at the heart-breaking Lacrimosa section of the piece. I rushed to T.s room, only to find the kids locked in battle over the placement of the table in Dora the Explorer's kitchen.

It's amazing how close that music brought me to my 16-year old self. There are times I feel so close to that girl, other times I feel the distance I've traveled, the layers that have been added to me in the process. I am 38, yet that 16-year old girl still hunkers inside of me. I catch sight of her from time to time, hunched over a desk, scribbling her path through the world; her heart stretching and stretching, practicing for these days, when it contains more than she could ever have imagined.