Vocal bliss and the art of not giving a damn

She was screaming so loud I could hear her above the roar of my lawnmower, Ava, singing at the top of her lungs while strumming away at her tennis racket/guitar that would make Slash proud. Her brown hair, not even close to resembling the carefully brushed and braided version done up by her mother, whipped around with every move of her head, the shiny beret seemed to hang on for dear life on a single strand. I’m not sure what kind of sugar-induced high she was on but damn it, one thing was abundantly clear for anyone within a four-block radius that late afternoon:

My daughter was freaking jamming.

And here’s the thing: she wasn’t being a snotty smartass or showing off to make daddy laugh – “Daddy, daddy, watch this! She was into the moment, swept up in some kind of euphoria triggered normally in adults by a cool buzz, good drugs or even better sex.

I watched her closely, careful not to run anything over as I continued mowing the lawn. Watching her perform in the backyard, shaking to some kind of tune playing inside that head full of imagination and wonder brought me back many years to a time when a piece of 2×4, the one we used to lock our backyard sliding door, doubled as a keyboard. Baseball bats were guitars. Broom handles were microphone stands. While my brothers and I – all kids in America growing up in the 80’s, for that matter – wanted our MTV, my parents just wanted a little quiet.

When he was away at work I would sneak into my dad’s closet and take out the long, black saxophone case that he kept tucked away in a corner, mostly hidden by sport jackets and long button-downed shirts. Like some Indiana Jones movie, I’d open up the case to reveal a shiny, golden treasure, a producer of sound that made people’s hips sway, heads bob and babies conceived. For as long as I can remember I’ve been as fascinated with the various sounds such instruments produce as much as the people that create them.

I recall times as a small child, going to band practice with my dad, watching him wail away on a golden horn that became an extension of his body and soul. It was as if he was willing those notes to come out of him; those beautiful notes that’d hang in the air like a series of shooting stars, illuminating the sky and fading out into the distance at the end of every breath. This man, my dad, who might not have always been the best at displaying his feelings – he was sort of old school that way until grandchildren started popping up – has always had a place inside of him where the music plays, where he can hit every note.

I glanced over at my daughter, who had finished her performance and had moved on to her mini BBQ grill while still singing her own little tune and I realized that music is in our DNA, there’s really no other way to explain it. You don’t need a biopsy and a pathology report to prove its existence, either. It’s just in there.

Ava won’t always sing for me, kids can be shy that way, but every now and then she’ll forget that people are looking; she’ll break out into spontaneous vocal bliss (even when we have to use our inside voice).  I just hope that one day, when she’s older,  Ava will reach a point where she won’t give a damn who’s in the room.


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