I come from a family where being musically inclined isn’t an option. You just are. Every single one of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (along with my dad, mom, and brother) are musical. Almost everyone plays an instrument and we all sing. Spontaneously. In 4 part harmony. To say that I was raised around music is an understatement. At family functions we wouldn’t say grace, we would sing it….. In 4 part harmony.
My grandma Nellie – my daughter’s namesake – was hellbent that I would sing harmony, by god. I can remember spending summer afternoons swimming in the pool with her (well. I swam. She floated in an inner tube) and having her teach me the harmonies to countless songs. I can still remember the very first song that I heard the harmony to:
Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I wanna go to bed.
I had a popsicle ’bout an hour ago and it went right to my head.
Wherever I may roam, on land or sea of foam
You can always hear me singin’ this song. Show me the way to go home.
Yes, I know that shark. Thank you. But when I learned it I was like 5, so popsicle it was. Because teaching a child a drinking song is a little inappropriate. Once I heard the harmony to that song, I could just hear harmony. In high school, I would sing along with someone in harmony and they’d stop and ask me, “how do you do that?” to which I’d respond: “I just do. How do you not?”
I wasn’t trying to be a smarmy little snot, though in retrospect that’s what I was being. It was an honest question. The harmony is always there, and I can always hear it.
I sing Nellie a lot of songs. I sing her “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”, “Senor Don Gato“, and the aforementioned “Show Me the Way to Go Home“. In the way of love songs and lullabies, I’ve been known to croon “Baby Mine” (memorably about 2 weeks postpartum when I was raging with sleep deprivation and hormones, I sobbed so hard while singing her that song her hair was dripping wet from my tears) and “All the Pretty Horses“.
But the song that she has responded to the most – more than any other song I’ve ever sung to her – is one that her great-grandma Nellie taught me. It’s called “Bushel and a Peck” and when I sing it to her she stops and watches me and listens. It stops her tears, it quiets her whines.. It works magic like no other song that I sing her does. It’s so very simple:
I love you, a bushel and a peck.
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck. A hug around the neck,
And a barrel and a heap. A barrel and a heap, and I’m talkin’ in my sleep about you..
There are more lyrics but I only sing her that part ‘cuz it’s the only part I remember.
I don’t know what it is about this song that intrigues her so, but I like to think that it’s just part of my musical blood running through her veins.. That a little piece of her great-grandma Nellie lives on inside of her. I think it’s beautiful and fascinating that my little daughter is so interested in the music that her namesake taught to me when I myself was a little girl. The connection makes me smile. I can’t wait to teach her all the songs that my grandma Nellie taught me.. The music lives on and I hope that my baby girl feels it in her soul one day like I do.