Today as I write this, January 21, is my mama’s birthday. She is 84 years old and just as cute as she can be with her snow white hair and her still beautiful complexion. She’s not as tall as she used to be (who is?), but she can still play a mean game of Scrabble and Chinese checkers, neither of which demands a great deal of height!
Mama was my introduction to music, as many mothers are, rocking and singing me to sleep when I was a baby. Of course, I don’t actually remember that, but I saw her do the same thing with my four younger sisters, and I figured she’d had to learn it somewhere, which was by practicing on me!
What did she sing? Songs that were popular in her youth: “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “K-A-L-A-M-A-Z-O-O,” “Missouri Waltz,” “Three Little Fishes” (with that wonderful line “boop, boop, didem, dahdem, whatem, choo!), “Shine On Harvest Moon,” and our all time favorite, one that started out, “There’s a little cabin where the honeysuckle twines....” (Casey recorded that as a banjo instrumental on her CD Real Women Drive Trucks.)
She also sang kids songs like “Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch,” “Billy Boy,” “Bye O Baby Bunting,” “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain,” “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad,” and “Rock-a-By Baby” (which I never liked, what with the bow breaking and the cradle falling). And since we were raised Baptist, “Jesus Loves Me” was also hot on the charts, and was the first song I learned to sing.
Singing has always been a big part of my life and I attribute that to Mama. She didn’t play an instrument but she sure seemed to know a lot of songs. When she was sick just before Christmas, my sisters and I all gathered at the house to be with her, and we entertained her (and ourselves) by singing for her. We were trying to pull out all the old songs and in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned we sang tunes like “My Gal’s a Corker, She’s a New Yorker,” “K-K-K Katy,” “Down By the Old Mill Stream,” “Jesus Loves The Little Children,” “Reuben, Reuben, I’ve Been Thinking,” and “My Tall Silk Hat.” And all the Christmas carols we could think of.
So, I guess there’s no real point to this, other than to say thank you, Mama, for inadvertently pointing me in a musical direction. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OLD PIE!