It is a lovely song, far more affecting and restrained than you would expect to find on a children’s Christmas compilation from Walt Disney records.
The CD liner is long gone, so I know only that the song is called “Angel Time” and it’s a rather stirring ballad sung by a woman with a strong, lilting voice. And for whatever reason, this song has found its way into my son’s tender heart and moved him more than he can understand or fully express.
The first time Graham heard it, I noticed him perk up and listen intently.
“Is that you singing, mommy?”
God bless his indiscriminate little soul; he’s not yet aware of my vocal, ahem, limitations.
“No sweetie, it’s not mommy. It’s another lady singing.”
He nodded, satisfied. “It must be the other mommy, then.”
The next time the song came on, Graham immediately rushed to me. “I want a huggy while I listen to the other mommy,” he said, while climbing into my arms.
But it’s what Graham did next that floored me. He started to sob.
Graham wept throughout the entire song. Tears ran down his face as he clung to me, raising his face just a few times to kiss my cheek, before he buried it again in my shoulder.
And after the song ended, he sniffled and composed himself. “I want to listen to the other mommy again, please mommy.”
And I hesitated because I felt confused about whether I should be complicit in something that made my son cry. It seemed strange and upsetting the notion that a mother should orchestrate a scenario that would drive a child into her arms seeking comfort.
But he begged to hear the other mommy sing “Angel Time” again. And I finally relented and played it, twice more, at his strong insistence. And each time, as soon as the first notes sounded, he settled into my arms, started to sway to the melody, and sobbed as if his little heart would break.
After the third time, I declined to play the song again, so drained was I by his reaction.
“Does that song make you feel sad, Graham?” I asked gently. He just shrugged.
“Does it kind of make you feel sad and happy at the same time?”
He nodded. And then I got it.
I suddenly understood because I, too, have been moved by music on countless occasions throughout my life: I cannot get through the Dixie Chicks’ version of “Landslide” without crying and Jack Johnson singing “Better Together” lifts my heart in a way that gladdens my entire soul.
Despite my lack of singing talent, we are a musical family. There is an abundance of talent on both sides. Sing-a-long evenings involving uncles and aunts and cousins are a regular occurrence. Rob was a local punk-rock hero in his day and my nephew is a budding rock star. My father and brother play guitar, my mother plays piano, and I play both.
Music has been responsible for some of the best moments in my life because it is music that has precipitated the moments in which I dare to believe that all the beauty and longing and pain and poignancy of life can somehow be universally expressed and understood.
And I think more than anything else that Graham has learned, it is this—this dawning realization of the power of music—that makes me the most proud of the person he is becoming.