Thursday, March 19, 2009

Family News

My family is in the news today, even though this piece has nothing to do with the news. Two weeks ago, a family in my church sang a song I grew up with, and they did it in a way that caused me to reminisce for over a week.

We all sang in my house, and we covered all the parts. When we would visit my grandparents in Alabama every summer, they would sing, too. Actually, my grandmother would often play the piano, and Granddaddy would stand with the rest of us and belt out this bass voice that would pop the pennies off of a dead Irishman. That phrase makes no sense here, but I've always wanted to use it.

Anyway, I have been talking to my mother a lot the last few days because my sister had surgery (she's recovering, by the way, and does not have lymphoma. At this point, we're confident that even though the tumor was malignant, the badness was contained and removed). But back to my mother, she filled me in on how her family worked their cotton field in Alabama before the stuff was picked by machine. And she told me more about how they sang together at churches during the 30s before her brothers went off to War.

Because my grandfather had such a commanding voice, he was the one to sing at all the local funerals. When someone died, my grandmother would play the piano, and my grandfather would sing at the service. According to my mother, he would often be asked to sing Nearer My God to Thee because, as she said, "he was able to sing it so sad." The kids would be released from school early and run over to the funeral home, and then they would all go home together.

We tried to get our own kids to sing, but it just wasn't their thing. In preparation for this editorial, I asked my kids what traditions we passed onto them. Eustacia fumbled over her answer because she wasn't exactly sure. Number 1 doesn't recall our doing much as a family, which is shocking, but she did recall that she always enjoyed hearing me play the piano. In the evenings, I would often sit down and play through things I learned during lessons in high school, and No. 1 liked to hear them especially at bedtime. The house would be quiet except for Moonlight Sonata or Claire de Lune or sometimes a hacked up piece of Chopin.

I would like to remind my children that we have maintained the Wells family Christmas tradition of gathering in Georgia which began when I was 12, and we have gathered with the in laws for every Thanksgiving since they were born.

I would also like to tell the jerk who criticized my parenting skills in this editorial piece that he is an ignoramus and has no idea what he's talking about.

Did your parents pass traditions on to you?


dive said...

Robyn, I do hope your sister makes a full recovery and that there is no recurrence.

Another wonderful newspaper editorial and another wonderful post, filling us in on details that didn't get into the paper.
That's a great phrase; I can imagine a really good bass voice vibrating the pennies off a dead Irishman's eyes while singing at the wake.

Don't worry about the girls not realising yet what traditions you've passed on to them; kids don't get to see those things until they're much older.

lynn said...

Yes my parents told me to ignore other people who think they know better but don't know us at all ;)

Best wishes to your sister x

Shazza said...

Robyn - I hope your sister is doing well and I'm glad it wasn't what you had feared.

We didn't really have any traditions but we have certain memories for different occasions: We used to listen to "A Christmas Carol" every Christmas. My Dad also used to play a version of Peter and the Wolf as narrated by Boris Karloff. And of course we listened to the Clancy Brothers every St. Patrick's day while eating ham and cabbage.

I don't think my kids have any traditions from me, but I hope they will make their own for their kids someday.

PF said...

Your wonderful piece about "I'll Fly Away" certainly drew some interesting comments. Asshats, I say.

Sassy Sundry said...

I hope your sister is OK, Robyn.

That guy really is a jerk. It sounds like someone gave him what-for, so that's good.

My parents passed down many traditions, and my sister and I cherish them. And sometimes we make fun of them.