When I was small, and my mother was alive, and young, we had a piano. It was an upright grand her father had bought for her when she was a girl. I was about five and I would sit on the piano bench and plink one finger or to at a time, composing songs and singing along.
I would play, and then carefully write down the words and notes. Nobody paid me any mind. I am not sure where my brother was, maybe in the yard or in a bedroom with a book. My mother might have been home or out, most likely in the kitchen.
My mother was a beautiful singer, in demand at church. She had gone to school in California on a voice scholarship. From what I know today, I would think my singing hurt her ears. But maybe a mother’s love is tone deaf.
When I was about 10 years old, my father began to teach at a strange little Christian school about an hour from our home. My brother and I went to school there, as did our 4 male cousins.
The cousins lived in Montgomery, in fact, they still do. We were twenty miles east of them. The school was in an ancient old high school 40 miles northwest in Stanton. None of this matters except it meant we spent nearly two hours every school day packed in a 1969 Chevy Caprice Classic station wagon. As we were aged from 17 to 7, we younger kids would listen and learn the latest pop and rock songs from the older boys. My father would let us listen to the push button AM radio when we were close enough to Montgomery to hear WHHY 1440 or 610 Big Bam, but as often as not, we sang acapella. One we were singing one of my favorites and I guess I was singing louder than usual. My youngest cousin looked at me and declared, “Anthony, you really cannot sing!” I was devastated. I quit singing for years.
When I was in my twenties I got divorced and join a group of young singles at the local Methodist mega church. I don’t know about their religion, but as a social organization, they were great. We did all sorts of wonderful group activities.
It turns out one of the things many of my new friends did was sing in the church choir. They encouraged me to join them. I told them I couldn’t sing. They said it was okay, it was a choir. I could sing softly and nobody would really notice. Only when I started practicing I didn’t sing softly. I loved to sing and I had not been singing for over a decade. I sang loud and strong. I loved it.
Then after several practices, the choir director came to me and said, not only could I not sing, I had such a leading voice, I was taking half the choir with me! The only solution was I had to leave the choir. He confirmed what my little cousin had said.
I spent the next thirty years never singing except in the shower or when I drove alone. I often use music to help me with my pacing on the poetry I write. I sing the poem and it tends to flow smoother.
Twelve years ago, my youngest son was born. For the first two years of his life, I sang and rocked him to sleep almost every night. I sang folk songs. I sang pop songs. I composed songs just for him. He seemed to like the sound of my voice.
When he was five, he started playing the violin. He either has a very good ear, or has trained his ear very well. He plays beautifully, and can hear a song once and play it for you. Somehow, I continued to sing out loud around him and his mother. But it has happened again. Somewhere in the last year or so, they both have tired of my singing.
I insist I can sing. I actually enjoy the sound of my own voice when I sing alone in the car. I still love to sing, but apparently, it is a gift only meant for myself.