Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Music Memory

I listen to Toronto's JAZZFM 91.1 every morning on the way to work. Heather Bambrick, the morning host, has a feature where she asks listeners and musicians if they have a 'music memory' they could share.

As I listened to today's installment, I was transported back 22 years to the sound of Bill singing to a restless, wee baby girl. Emma was a horrible sleeper and always had a hard time falling asleep on her own. I would usually start the process by breast- feeding her until she fell asleep in my arms. The minute I laid her down in her crib, she would wake up; Mummy's warm embrace was no longer there to comfort her. She would look at me with those soulful eyes wondering what on EARTH I was doing leaving her alone in her crib.

Enter Bill: man of boundless energy. He would lift her up and walk with her until she fell asleep - long after I had collapsed.

It was a strange period in our lives. Emma was our first baby -and she was a mummy's girl from the very beginning.  Bill sometimes felt unnecessary and, unfortunately, I did not help the situation. I think I managed to make him feel like a second class member of the family - Emma always came first.

However, Bill was often the only one that could get her to sleep and stay asleep. You see, Emma loved to walk. She was most content in her stroller and she would often take naps there - rain or shine, hot or freezing. We had purchased one of those 'pram' type strollers which was quite roomy and a bit imposing.

She loved to be in that safe, little compartment. She and Bill would go for long walks around the neighborhood. And, more often than not, she would fall asleep while cruising through Delaware Park.

On nights when the weather was bad and Emma wouldn't go to sleep, Bill would do 'laps' of our first floor. Slowly, he would increase the angle of her seat until she was in a horizontal position in the stroller. The dining room was right under our bedroom - and I would listen to the stroller wheels hit the wooden floors after rolling silently on the carpet. Bill would also sing to Emma to help the process and the monotony.  I understand that normal people sing lullabies to babies. Not Bill. He preferred leafing through his memory banks of jazz standards. The song that worked the best was "Good Bye Pork Pie Hat",  Mingus' elegy to Lester Young. It is, shall we say, a somber tune. Bill is a great musician but a lousy singer - however, this song, with its limited range was mastered by Bill.  Even with a floor separating us I could recognize those plaintive notes.

Today, whenever I hear that tune, I envision that stroller wearing wheel treads into the dining room carpet while a blissful Emma is lulled to sleep by her adoring father. And Bill, no longer superfluous to the baby raising process, has found that his love of jazz a very useful tool.