There’s a drawer in our apartment that I don’t like to think about. I hear a low thrum coming from inside it, beating like the tell-tale heart.
The drawer is filled with photos, a tiny just-home-from-the-hospital infant hat, a crazy log of contractions, a crazy log of breastfeeding times, cards, poems, first curls from a first haircut, handprints made at a street fair.
If I went to a Mom’s Anonymous meeting, I’d have to stand up and admit, “I’m Carla W, my daughter Kate is almost 5 years old and I still haven’t made her baby book.” And, as Kate reminds me on a daily basis with a classic hands-on-hips, eye-rolling, foot-stomp, she is not a baby anymore.
So, I try to write little notes to remind myself of funny things she has said. I send e-mails to the grandparents in the hopes that they’re saving these stories for posterity or they’ve forgotten how to delete. I have ambitiously transcribed a few of her “stories” when the muse strikes, but often I can’t decipher my shorthand. She talks really fast when she’s on a creative roll… The drawer’s cry becomes more audible to me with each birthday.
Last week we were eating dinner and listening to one of our "Music Together" cds. Kate and I started taking "Music Together" classes in New York when she was two months old. A mom friend convinced me to go and, although we mostly nursing through the songs, we enjoyed seeing the future in the faces of the new walkers and boisterous toddlers jumping about and singing along. One of the best parts of Music Together classes is that they give you swag - a cd and bound sheet music collection of the songs you’ll be hearing and singing that term.
Kate and I continued to attend classes and through the years we’ve had all sorts of teachers. From a cute curly-headed, hung-over rocker whose sly humor and energetic singing was fun for both kids and parents; to a zither-playing avant-garde jazz singer; to a lovely aspiring musical theatre performer whose lap Kate preferred to mine; to the unflappable Andy who runs Hong Kong’s "Music Together" classes with her sweet voice and Cheshire cat grin. We’ve been in classes full of loving care-givers, classes full of naughty kids who suck on the maracas and hit their mommies, classes full of perfect quiet children who make Kate look like a screaming banshee, and classes full of new friends who let the music lead them into 45 minutes of joyous abandon.
After Kate went to bed tonight I snuck into the living room and played four years of "Music Together" discs. Standing in front of our dusty stereo, I thought about making out to the greatest hits of the 80’s with Noah Kapstein in his dorm room. Teen grope fantasy pushed aside, I ate a bowl of bunny-shaped pasta with my fingers and listened to the greatest hits of Music Together. A "Mom’s Top of the Pops."
And then these real moments from Kate’s life came swimming back to me and I could taste them. Like an amnesiac reviving, I remembered.
I am proudly feeding Kate homemade apple sauce, which I’m convinced she loves much better than the store-bought baby-food. I’m making her open her mouth wide by singing: De colores, de colores se visten los campos en la primavera… all the colors in me and the colors I see come together in a rainbow of one…
She eats until... Lukey’s boat is painted green, Aha me boys! Then, like clockwork, she fidgets and fusses until she is lifted out of her bright blue feeding chair, bib off, face cleaned, and over to the rocker by the window where she gurgles and barks to: Stars shinin’, number, number one, number two, number three, Good night. By ‘n’ by, Good night, good night… until she starts to nod off for her morning nap.
Spinning in her exer-saucer in the weak mid-morning light of our garden apartment in Brooklyn. Put the rhythm in your hands and go clap, clap, clap; Put the rhythm in your feet and go tap, tap, tap. Suddenly, as the music instructs, Kate starts to clap her hands and stomp her feet. I call my mother, my sisters, my sister-in-law and 5 friends to brag.
In the music class, Kate is screeching with giggles as I “trot” her on my knee, holding tight onto my index fingers with her sweaty hands. Trot old Joe, Trot old Joe, You’re the best horse in the country-o, Whoa, Joe.
Suddenly she is weeping through her favorite song, A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam, goolie, goolie, goolie, goolie, goolie, ram, sam, sam. I try to jolly her up until an observant nanny points out that she looks feverish. Mortified, I rush her home and discover that she has her first very high temperature. After a panicked visit to the doctor, a tasty dose of grape Tylenol puts her to sleep in her stroller. I walk her through the snowy park eating a warm slice of pizza. I hum to calm myself...
The water is wide, I cannot cross o’er, and neither have I wings to fly. Give me a boat that can carry two, and both shall row, my child and I.
When we repeat the same music collection in Hong Kong, Kate gets much more demanding. No longer satisfied with just a “trot,” trusty old Joe must transform herself into a rodeo horse. My abs get a work-out every Wednesday morning as I hold a 35lb girl on my lap and throw myself backwards. The faster and higher the better. The screeching giggle remains the same.
These days Kate makes requests like, “I want the potato song.” Soon as we all cook, sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes, eat ‘em right straight up. Sometimes she imitates the kids from her classes instead of giving the song title. “I’m beezy mama, I’m beezy,” means: Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, one named Jack and one named Jill. She once tried to make her little Korean friend be a blackbird in the song, and the friend turned to her and said, “I’m beezy” which cracked the whole class up. Now we even make up our own lyrics to the "Music Together" tunes. Though these days Kate’s lyrics mostly consist of scatological phrases strung together and punctuated by wild laughing and flashing of tushies.
Once in a while I think about... my lady wind… round and round the house she blows, trying to get in… and I realize that the song still has the power to depress me. It makes me think about those dark, lonely winter hours when Kate would wake up very cranky from her afternoon nap at 5PM. How cold it was and how much I ached for adult companionship. I remembered carrying her in the sling into the windy sleet of a December night because I was just desperate to get out of the house. We walked along the streets and looked at Christmas lights in people’s windows and I felt like the only person in the world who had such an enormous burden. Just the two of us and all those endless hours until bedtime.
One day I’ll glue that tiny infant hat to a page. Until then... Goodbye, so long, farewell my friends, goodbye, so long farewell, We’ll see you soon again, and then we’ll make Music Together again.
I can't tell you about it because you're a grown-up. Grown-ups can't know about these things.