One of my favorite times in grade school and junior high was choir. I never wanted to be a soloist or anything, but singing at the top of my lungs riding the wave of the music roller coaster was one of the great pleasures of going to school every day.
So when I discovered a choir elective in high school, I happily signed up. The school had a new director who entertained himself as the rising star of the high school music scene.
A couple of times during the year, he had hinted dissatisfaction with my abilities. The director suggested that I practice solo in these what-I-now-know-to-be-expensive-glass-enclosed music rooms.
I had absolutely no idea what the music director was talking about. I had zero formal music training and simply did not understand what it took to be a good singer. In fact, I had zero ambition when it came to music. I sang because it was fun.
At the end of the school year I signed up again for choir. Then came a shock to my system: the music director had the authority to reject my entrée into sophomore choir.
I wasn’t heart-broken. It’s not as if my life dreams were dashed. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being bummed.
The real damage, though came from my growing self-consciousness about singing in public – or private. I came to realize that I essentially sucked at singing. It is easy to fall into that trap when all your relatives are essentially monotone in the worst way, and virtually every girlfriend since college has asked me to NOT hum or sing.
The next time I did any real singing was after Seth was born. As those of you who read this site know, we had severe sleep issues with Seth, who would wake up screaming every hour on the hour most nights of his first two years.
My wife, who would repeatedly nurse Seth back to sleep, took the brunt of it. But I did find a way to get Seth to sleep – via singing. In the beginning, I just needed to hum a fast repetitive tune. “Dunt, dunt, du-du-du dunt,” worked best.
Despite my initial successes at 3 a.m., I was somewhat self-conscious about singing in front of my wife, Anne. When she criticized me for singing too fast to Seth, I was particularly defensive.
But humming slow to Seth had ZERO effect – he wouldn’t fall asleep without a loud, fast-moving beat.
Eventually, Anne let me sing to my heart’s content because it meant sleep relief for her. Eventually, she even joined in on the “dunt, dunt, du-du-du dunts,” during long drives where nothing but singing would placate our boy.
But the two songs Seth loves most are my renditions of “Go to Sleep, Big Seth” and “Seth Will Be Coming Around the Mountain.” I still sing those songs today before he goes to bed.
So when I attended Seth’s first Hanukkah music recital in one of the most beautiful Jewish Temples I’ve ever seen – which isn’t many – all these memories and deep pride washed over me at the same time.
The evening started with us walking in light rain to the Temple, where we were fed gooey pizza, latkes and sufganiot (Hebrew for jelly donuts.)
The kids in Seth’s preschool were sequestered in some back room as parents found seats in the huge sanctuary. Then Rabbi Joe Black ascended the stage and began.
My wife was one of the designated photographers, but Lael was fussing. I wound up shooting the first half of the show, which put me front and center.
When Seth came out with his group of kids, I was right there with my camera. When the camera police-lady told me to stop taking pictures, I ignored her. After all, I am a proud dad, and I was supposed to be taking pictures for the preschool! She finally backed off after she finally chilled enough for me to explain what I was doing.
From vantage, I could see Seth belting out his songs with hearty vigor (when he wasn’t making shadow puppets in the oh-so-cool studio lights.). I wonder if I looked like that when I used to sing?
During the second half of the concert, Lael danced in the aisle while Anne played photographer. I can’t begin to describe my pride watching and listening to Seth sing with such gusto and joy.
By the end of the show, my boy was exhausted, but I noticed how happy he was to have me there. Always looking for approval, that boy. I can’t imagine what a letdown it would have been if I hadn’t been there to endorse his performance.
More importantly, I realized that I will be vigilant in making sure that if Seth wants to continue to sing all his life, I will take any high school music teacher aside and explain to him ever so politely, “Back off, jerk.”