Today, my message is short and sweet: Find ways to enjoy your time with the children who grace your space. I have always loved music and dancing. I find myself dancing at random moments to really awesome beats. Sometimes when I hear a song that moves me I even sing along (even if I don’t know all of the words). When I was growing up, my family loved music and dancing was a natural progression.
When I was a child, my brother had a band called the I-85 Express. I am not sure how it happened that our garage became their rehearsal hall, but it was for a period of time. They would rehearse all of the latest music from the R&B (rhythm and blues) charts and often some songs that were on the pop chart. As I recall, the guys would arrive at our house in the evening and spend at least a two or three hours arranging music and rehearsing their parts. I looked forward to these weekly jam sessions in the garage. I always appreciated my brother’s ability to create the melodies I heard on the radio. He was gifted with amazingly soothing and mellow vocals. He also played the saxophone, the keyboards, the guitar and the flute. He was a band director so he had some level of skill on most instruments, but those were the ones I remember him playing. I remember one night in particular they needed a female vocalist to sing a part and he let me join the band’s rehearsal. I wish that I could remember the song, but it escapes me now. However, I still smile when I think about that memory and my brothers chuckle and smile as he encouraged me to step out of a safe zone and try something new. He allowed me for a moment to join in what brought him enormous joy, peace and pleasure. For a brief moment, I became a member of the I-85 Express. My brother was seventeen years older than me so I was much too young to go to the places where they played their gigs and they stayed up and out way past my bed time. But, I have never forgotten my brother’s invitation that allowed me a glimpse into the wonder of his world. It was fun and exciting and memorable.
My father also loved music and at random times he and my mother would dance. I have always thought that the dances of their day were cool. The energetic bounce of the jitterbug and the sultry slow drag always stopped me in my tracks so that I could watch them take in the sounds and block out the rest of the world to see each other. It was always a magical, beautiful moment. When my mother was not around and my dad’s favorite dance music would come on, he would use those opportunities to dance with me. I can remember my mother walking in on one of my dance lessons and stopping to offer an encouraging smile. Now, that they are both gone, this memory is even more special.
My sister was eleven years older than me and didn’t really invite me into her space that often. She treated me like an annoying little sister and maybe because I did take many opportunities to be just that. Honestly, I took pride in my ability to annoy her. I also took full advantage of my ability to gather intel for my parents whether they asked for it or not and tell on her every time I could. So, her keeping me at bay was probably to her advantage most of the time. My sister struggled with mental illness from the time I was eleven, but music was always a constant. I think it calmed her and gave her an escape from her monsters. I didn’t understand that then, but I learned later that she needed music. Now, there is music therapy and the studies about the impact of music on people from the fetal stage through senior years. I am not sure if she read that someplace or if she just knew what it did for her. My sister had an awesome music collection that included every album of every artist or group on the R&B and pop charts. She listened to music and sang constantly. My problem with her in my latter teen years was that she thought that everyone wanted to hear her tunes ALL of the time and she would play her music while I tried to watch television or study or visit with friends or talk on the phone and dare me to tell. By now, it was known that music calmed the beast so she used her music to soothe and control. Needless to say, I learned a lot of the popular hits and furthered my appreciation for all genres of music.
My childhood memories influenced my parenting. I encouraged my kids to learn to play instruments and join the middle school bands. We endured the learning of the oboe, the viola, the piano, all of the percussion instruments. We sang in the car, in the grocery store, and any other place we felt the spirit move. When my kids were very young, we would stop in our tracks and dance to the music playing over the speakers in the stores. I love those memories of dancing with them in places not designed to be dance floors. I hope that I taught them to laugh and to embrace spontaneity. I hope they learned that they should have the freedom to live out loud and make life fun. I realize now that my parents raised three artists and raising artists means the square pegs probably won’t fit in the round holes. Music became a method of expression, connection and instruction for my family and I passed that on to my children. Because it is Black History Month I am reminded of the role of music through slavery and the Civil Rights Movement to teach and deliver messages of freedom and deliverance. My children had the gift of being raised by an artist and I pray that my efforts to gift them my uniquenesses at unique moments will bless them for the rest of their lives. I hope that more people will see the value of the arts like music and dance and encourage their children to create diversely populated music libraries and raise up a legacy of folks who love music and who will allow music to infiltrate their spaces and their spirits.