It’s the 4 p.m., the “Witching Hour.” It follows us through life with our children—just the symptoms that go along with it change, that’s all. I had this mini babe with colic, high up over my shoulder at 4 p.m. everyday. She’d napped, been fed, changed, yet still cried her eyes out. Husband-at-the-time had a wicked stereo system. I recall my annoyance with his purchase of something so massive and having it wired in the house by a professional electrician. I think we paid for the guy’s kids’ college tuitions in his two visits. But, when I realized the power of the stereo, I let go of that resistance to over-abundance in the world of kick-ass sound systems.
The first time I decided to try it out for the crying baby, I played Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” Maybe because I hummed along or that the song is nearly five minutes long, but the baby’s head was against my chest in a few minutes and she slept. Or maybe she just really liked Joni Mitchell.
Our record players were restricted to our closets in the eighties. I’m not sure why, but it might have been due to our slippery fingers that kept cranking the volume up. I’m fairly certain there is a correlation between that and my hearing loss because there, in the closet, we listened to our records with our headphones covering our ears. “Grease,” the soundtracks to “Pete’s Dragon” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” were top picks. In carpool, when Mom drove the hour each way, the same Barry Manilow songs played over and over again. Religious hymns were also standard, at which we rolled our eyes, but it was better than reading from the Bible, which sometimes was mandatory. Helen Reddy ballads, John Denver crooning, and Neil Diamond kept us balanced and ready for school.
Dad, on the other hand, had a pretty killer record collection, but rarely played it ... not until he quit his high-paying executive job in Los Angeles and started painting as an artist fulltime. It was then that he played music constantly. The one song that stands out in memory is Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll.” I remember it so vividly because when we got to the age of where we stayed up late and “tried” to sleep in on Saturday mornings, Dad would crank it up on the stereo around 8 o’clock and blast us out of our beds. We’d wander downstairs and find him stomping his feet to the beat, singing off key while studying the back of the record cover. The image of my dad in his Vans (which he still wears now), stomping his feet to the music, singing off key, singing the wrong lyrics, still makes me grin.
When Papa picked us up from school on occasion, the dark, tinted windows to his little golf Honda were dark as they would legally allow in those days. The car could have easily been mistaken for a drug dealer car due to its mystique. But the fact that he blasted Pavorati so loudly that the windows shook excused his gangster car. His name was Guy and my grandmother had a horn installed in it as a present for him that went a little like this: “Guuuy-ooooooo-gah!” He’d drive up around the circle of our school to pick us up, honking the “Guuuy-ooooooo-gah” horn with his music blaring. If I didn’t love it so much, I probably would have been embarrassed. In that same car, with Opera, are some of my first memories of eating Raisinets and using Orange Crush Bonnie Bell lip balm, carsick from the smell.
I eventually developed a love for Country music and when I married, I was tormented and teased by my husband who would not allow it in his presence. Interestingly enough, when I moved out and left some of my CDs behind, he eventually returned them, saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I burned some copies for myself.” And some of those very albums were John Denver, Alison Kraus, Nickel Creek, and Wynonna Judd. In the end, I found out our children begged for John Denver at his house. Somewhere along the way he decided he liked it too.
Now, as a single mother of two little girls, music is the center of our lives. When we’re cooking, eating dinner, painting, or if I am alone walking or working in my studio, music plays. In the car, the girls sing along. When my husband and I separated and the three of us moved numerous times over the course of that year, we consistently danced in the kitchen, no matter the kitchen. It started out with music one night during dinner and I danced a little freedom dance. The kids hopped out of their chairs, holding their yogurt spoons and we twirled and sang and bounded around the floor. Settled now in our home, we continue, especially on days that are hard for any or all of us, and more often on days we are grateful and in love.
My day is complete, no matter the challenges or triumphs, as my children look up at me with huge smiles and laughs when we dance, their eagerness and joy in seeing my happiness, freedom and peace ...