One of the first things I learned about Daniel was that he had an amazing mental library of goofy songs. Many tunes were Sunday School silliness, but most of them were just really random, really fun songs. He learned several from his grandfather (who may or may not have known all the correct words), including the one I forced him to sing upon meeting my parents before we even were dating. In complete mortification (and no small amount of loathing toward me), he sheepishly sang:
There was an old farmer who lived by a crick
And every fine morning he’d play with his . . .
Chickens and ducks that swarmed ’round his door
He married a young lady they thought was a . . .
Very nice young lady who played in the grass
And when she bent over she showed them her . . .
Lace on her petticoat and maybe a tuck
She promised to teach him a new way to . . .
Bring up the kids, teach the girls how to knit
While the boys in the barnyard were shoveling out . . .
Contents of the barnyard and maybe some sod
You might think I’m a poet, but I’m a farmer by . . .
The other morning as I was turning off the shower I heard the whistling of a long-adored, familiar tune. Daniel had started Disney’s “Robin Hood” for the kids so he could finish a work report. Remember that whistled tune during the beginning credits? Daniel was whistling along, note-for-note. The entire song. First of all, I can barely whistle. Secondly, I can definitely not carry a tune whistling.
Nearly all of my closest friends have agreed with me on this point: that “Robin Hood” is the best of all Disney cartoons. Daniel is no exception. When he was growing up his family took road trips every summer, and at some point they acquired a cassette tape of the “Robin Hood” soundtrack. How his parents remained sane, listening to that tape over and over and over again through states like Oklahoma and west Texas, is a mystery to me. Believe me when I say Daniel could begin at any given point in the script and quote until you made him stop. He knows every word in each scene; he knows the exact inflection in the little bunnies’ voices; and he can freakin’ whistle that intro tune like nobody I’ve ever heard. When Grey was a baby, he scolded me for not knowing all the words to the opening song (one of the constant bedtime requests still), and sang it through with me several times until I had it memorized.
Like all good parents, we try to introduce our children to the things we feel are important and worthwhile. I picked vegetables. Daniel picked cartoons. I picked good manners. Daniel picked silly songs. We both picked imagination and teaching our kids how to think and not what to think.
Grey sometimes asks me to sing songs I don’t know. The other day I swear I heard her singing “The Pig Song” to Atticus, and he hummed along (I’ve heard it a hundred times, and can still only remember the chorus.) Daniel continues to learn new songs to keep her head spinning. (And just now, reading over my shoulder, he remembered an old one I’ve never heard that is verse upon verse all about Daddy’s Whiskers. He giggling to himself now in the kitchen.)
A few years ago, our friends Laura and Justin found the “Robin Hood” soundtrack album at a used record store. When he gave it to me, Justin had no idea just how meaningful it was/is. We’ve opted to listen instead of watch a number of times, and I can’t wait till we’re having some cheesy family sing-a-long.