Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't Judge A Post By Its Title (Or Lack Thereof)

My paternal grandmother, my Nan, used to break into song right in the midst of her daily routine for no apparent reason. Often she would sing one or two lines of some off the wall (at least to me) song and then go back to whatever she was doing without even acknowledging (or even seeming to realize) that she'd been singing for five or ten seconds. It was like a mild and musical version of Tourette's syndrome--kind of.

In the past few years, I've found myself doing the same thing--humming "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" for no logical reason (as if there exists a logical reason to hum it), singing (in my best operatic voice--which is not operatic at all but more like the sounds a bull walrus would make if someone had him by the balls), "Way down upon the Sewanee river/Far, far, far away," and on really bad days belting out an original (if very short and somewhat foul (or fowl as the case may be)) composition: "Fa-la-la-la-la-fuck-a-duck."

My own outbursts of pointless (not to mention tone deaf and tuneless) music have me a little paranoid about what other genetic time bombs my grandmother has left behind. Will I soon start eating kidney beans straight out of the can while watching People's Court and Entertainment Tonight? Will I shave my legs with a dry razor while sitting on a lawn chair in the front yard? Will I discover my inner kleptomaniac--and begin filching worthless and completely useless items because I can't stop myself?

Anyway, my grandmother's been on my mind this week because one of the songs she would sing was "School Days." You know "School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days?" Sometimes she would sing it right in the middle of asking one of us how school was going--which at least made a little sense--and sometimes she would sing it for absolutely no discernible reason. I'm happy to report that I haven't sung it yet, but it's been on the tip of my tongue and in the back of my mind all week.

Our first day back to school was Tuesday. For Son-One it was the first day of his senior year. Son-Two's a junior, Son-Three, a sophomore. And Daughter-Only? Well, she's in the Middle School this year.

Given her penchant for freaking out about the smallest things, I was really amazed at how calm she seemed as the new year--in a new building--approached. Even on Monday, with the Big Day less than 24 hours away, she seemed fine. By bedtime, the nerves were starting to show a little--she was studying the map of the building (a building, which, by the way, she's been in a number of times for plays, games, etc) as if her life depended on it, but still, she was doing better than I'd expected (and dreaded) she would.

Tuesday morning, she was ready and waiting long before any of her brothers. When we pulled up to the school, the boys all got out and there was Daughter-Only in the middle of the backseat, looking lost and tiny and just not at all ready to be going to sixth grade (SIXTH!!!) and she says, in her lost, tiny voice, "I don't wanna go."

The truth? I totally sympathize--more than she can possibly know. My first day of sixth grade was in a completely new school where I knew not a single soul and sixth grade is just this gigantic time--the cusp of something, I guess--and it still stands out as the first time (but not the last) in my life that I remember facing a new school with something close to abject terror. I didn't sleep a wink the night before and I can clearly remember being tempted to throw myself at my mother's feet and beg for a reprieve.

My mother wouldn't have given me that reprieve anymore than I could give Daughter-Only the reprieve she was meekly asking for. She got out without further protest and my pride in her at that moment was all tangled up with my sympathy, my empathy, my hopes that things will go smoother for her than they did for me.

"...dear old Golden Rule days..." my ass.


  1. I too for some strange reason break out into song no matter where I am. Work, Wal-Mart, Home, Car..I bet my employee's never imagined they would be given a show each day at work!

    Some of my most recent solos have been "You've gotta frog on your head." "You are my Sunshine", "Ring around the Rosie", and the #1 this week "We're the Doodlebops", not to be overshadowed by "We're gonna take a bus ride."

    I feel Only-Daughter's pain. Middle school and Jr. High were the years of my life that I want to erase. When I think of them I still feel some pain from just the doubt in myself and how damn dorky I was...

  2. Genetic time-bombs. Love it! Now I'm thinking about what my relatives do/used to do, and examining my habits VERY closely...