When you were very small, I wondered what your passion would be. I noticed the other little boys I met. Would you be a construction vehicle kid? A train kid? A dinosaur kid? You gravitated naturally to trains (with a minor in monkeys), and you still do really love trains. For instance, you found an ad in a magazine for a model train show, and have now memorized the date and details, making sure we always remember that “on March 9th we’re going to the train show.” But you never became the kind of obsessive train lover I’d seen some of my friends’ kids transform into. You like watching and playing trains. You don’t really care what kind they are, where they’re going, or what’s inside.
It turns out that your real passion, the topic about which you want to devour countless books and videos, the thing you wake up wanting to talk about and go to bed still discussing, is music. Musical instruments, to be specific. You have always loved music and singing, are a major connoisseur of show tunes (currently: Godspell, Music Man, Fiddler), and I have been talking about your burgeoning interest in music for months now. But since December, you have basically run away to join the orchestra.
First we played Papa’s childhood favorite Tubby the Tuba over and over and over again, and you learned the names of all the instruments. Then Nana and Papa took you to hear a musical telling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the CSO. I took out a book of Peter and Wolf and downloaded a version for us to listen to. We listened to it literally a hundred times in the last two months. You loved the story, worrying for Peter and the duck, amused by the crotchety grandpa. But you also adored the intersection of story and instruments, considering how a cat can be a clarinet and a duck can be an oboe.
And then, after weeks of slowly building up to it, you were finally ready for the big guns. Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. We actually have it on the same album with Peter and the Wolf, both narrated by Dame Edna (who you call “the mom”), and had tried it before without much interest. But one day I tried it again, and now it’s been a whole two weeks where we’ve barely listened to anything else. You’ve memorized all the narration and use it to start conversations with me (“Is the oboe sad, Sarah? Why is the oboe sad?”) and I giggled when I realized that the unintelligible phrase you (and soon Zella) were yelling, in total ecstatic joy, when the full orchestra begins playing the theme, is “The percussion is STRUCK! The percussion is STRUCK!” I found a really nice version on youtube that’s just the music, with great closeups of the different sections of the orchestra, and whenever I’ll let you watch it, it’s 17 minutes of bliss for you.
Meanwhile, we can spend half an hour just flipping through a reference book about musical instruments, followed by another half an hour clicking on the accompanying educational CD-ROM, which is basically: here’s the sound a violin makes, here’s the sound a viola makes, here’s the sound a cello makes. We only stop because I have to get up, and the thing is totally text based and you can’t do it on your own.
A few days ago, while Zella was napping, you spontaneously took down your ukulele and guitar and the “bow” I made you from a ruler and some string, and began cycling through the string section, pretending to play the violin, the cello, and the bass. After a few minutes, you asked if you could hear some cello music, and I showed you some videos of string quartets. You played violin, then cello with complete rapt concentration. Then you took a bow right along with the performers. One night before bed you said, “I want to show you something really tricky!” and then mimed playing a contrabassoon. Specifically.
These days, your most fervent requests are accompanied with a shy grin and a sing-song voice while you tilt your head from side to side. “Maybe…we could listen to…Child’s Guide to…the ORCHESTRA? That would be fun!” It is. We do. And, yes, I am already researching violin classes for three year olds, and strategizing ways to get you to Grammy’s for more “pinano” time.
Here’s a little video to immortalize your musical madness:
The percussion is struck, possum.
p.s. Here are your other, non-orchestral favorites this winter: Cats who are in and not in this book; the word and the feeling of “fluffy,” representing the apotheosis of comfort and style; wearing your (fluffy, obviously) pajamas at all times if possible; Marcel the Shell; marble tracks, especially if they are really “tricky,” your favorite adjective besides “fluffy”; hot chocolate, pronounced “chwockwit”; adding “for you” to suggestions for other people, as if you attended a management seminar and were told to personalize all requests (“Would you like some hot chwokwit? It would be so yummy for you.” “Would you like to feel my pajamas? They will be so fluffy for you.”); The Wizard of Oz; and knock-knock jokes, which you understand not at all. Here is your favorite joke this week: Knock knock. Who’s there? George. George who? GET OUT OF THE GARBAGE CAN!