Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sing! It’s quality time.

My post of yesterday about the truly horrible pun (and if you haven’t read it, don’t scroll down and read it now—you’ll just get sick) started me thinking about the family vacations we took when my daughters were children and teenagers.

Those were special times, because we would always drive (as opposed to flying, hiking, etc.) This enforced time together usually included at least one overnight stay in a motel, and LOTS of time in the van.

Oh yes, our first “SUV” was a 1983 Dodge full-size van. Ideal for those family trips, the van had two bucket seats in front, not one but TWO bench seats, and then, all the way in the back, was still enough cargo room to carry everything four people could want during a week or two away from home.

We even kidded about throwing a kitchen sink back there along with everything else, just to say we’d brought it. But we never did.

Another nice feature of the van was the bench seats could be removed without tools, OR they could be turned to face the rear, or to face each other! That last arrangement became our favorite over the years. The girls could lie down and sleep, each with her own “bed.” Or they could sit side-by-side and look at a book or other object together. OR, they could sit facing each other with a lightweight piece of plywood on their knees between them and play board games. It was ideal.

But what I really remember is the times I would sing to them.

Now, I’m no Caruso. I can carry a tune, most of the time, but some of the notes may be a little (or a lot) sharp or flat—especially when sung a cappella.

No, it was the songs rather than the quality of the singing.

I’d sing them old (top 40 — remember those?) songs, like “The Witch Doctor,” and “Does Your Chewing-Gum Lose its Flavor (on the Bedpost Overnight)?” The girls had never heard them before and were delighted. Oh, another really old one was “Tan Shoes with Pink Shoe Laces.”

(Can you see me driving down the road singing, “Ooo, eee, ooo ah ah, ting, tang, walla-walla bing-bang...)?

As they grew older I switched to ballads—songs that told a story. One favorite was Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.” Another was “Texas Rangers” (performed by several old western singers, and by Ian & Sylvia). Marty Robbins’ version of “El Paso” kept the girls spellbound, and they delighted in “Pride of Petrovar,” a wonderful, fast-moving Irish tale of Eileen Orr, the Pride of Petrovar, who fell for McGraw, the old horse-trader, because he ignored her!

We’ve had several discussions debating just what it was that Billy Joe and his girl threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. And they’ve never forgotten those songs.

“So what,” you ask? I dunno. Those were just some special times of connecting with my kids. It’s something like what I can see Hamel doing with his boys.

Times like that with your kids will be treasured later. I call that “quality time.”


Karyn Lyndon said...

I'm sure these were treasured times that you'll remember forever but don't you think words like "delighted" and "spellbound" are a little strong?

What do you say, Christina? Were you yelling "Sing another one, Daddy!" or "Pleeeease, can we turn on the radio, Daddy?"

Anonymous said...

Actually, I gotta stick up for my dad on this one. (Wow! How did THAT happen?) Seriously, we loved those songs and the discussions they would inspire. And he tirelessly sang just about every song he knew multiple times at our request. That was probably our favorite way of passing the time on those long trips. Mine anyway.

Karyn Lyndon said...

What can I say? I guess your Dad sings better than me because when I would sing my favorite oldies, everyone would reach for the radio at the same time...

I'm sorry, John. (Wow! How did THAT happen?)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. We must have come from parallel universes. I too use to sing some of the oldies to my daughter: "Misty Moonlight" "The Birds And The Bees"
My voice wasn't as good as yours, once when i attempted "Cara Mia" by Jay and the Americans, my wife said from the other room - "oh, I like 'Mule Skinner Blues.' I laughed, but you know, I think she was serious.

Anonymous said...

Great post, John. I'm working on an essay about my own family vacations right now, but, well, let's just say MY dad didn't sing to us. If the radio was even on, we were lucky. Mostly it was a lot of, "Can't you guys sit still?" and "If you ask me that one more time, jesus, you've sat in that backseat on the way to florida fifty seven times, you know perfectly well we still have fifteen hours to go," or "No, we are not going to Ruby Falls!"

Except that one time when he said, "Fine, let's go," and turned off the road and we went to Ruby Falls, which consists of a long trek through a dark, dank, damp cave to a large cavern in the middle of a mountain with a trickle of water (the falls) coming out of the rock high above, with a red light (hence, Ruby) shining on it.

Ah, family vacations. All that fun with my dad is what inspires me to drive to fla instead of fly. How else could you see dump trucks full of dead cows?

btw, thanks for continuing to be a loyal reader. School starts soon, and that will drag me out of my writing rut, as I will have no choice but to be writing constantly.

kenju said...

You could have sung...."Hey, Nonny ding dong, a lang alang, ba-do, ba-doo, ba-doo, bad-ay...".

We also had a full-size van, and the 2 back seats made into a bed for 2. The children always fought over who was touching whom. Good ole days!

the many Bs said...

That's a nice story. It sounds like your kids had a wonderful childhood.

I don't think that joke in your last post was bad at all after you explained it to me. I liked it.

Nankin said...

What about, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini", or "Purple People Eater"? MY dad used to drive like hell for 12 hours to get somewhere, and when we were finally there, he was ready to drive another 12 hours to get somewhere else.

Duke_of_Earle said...


OH yeah! I did those, too. As in, "It was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple PEOPLE eater..." and ("One, two three, four, tell the people what she wore!")

We did those. And more!