SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE | ginger hamilton caudill
My parents originally met while singing on a radio program. Both had lovely voices and a joy for music. I grew up listening and loving all kinds of music, from the classics to show tunes to popular music. I knew all the songs from Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Funny Girl. I wept with Sunrise, Sunset and laughed at Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof. I knew all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray and that you could get your kicks on Route 66. I became acquainted with the old man that played knick-knack on my thumb, and I knew the old lady who swallowed a fly. I called the wind Mariah and wondered how much was that doggie in the window. I knew when Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay, and I knew to get out of the way for old Dan Tucker. I wondered why the captain shouted for Dinah to blow her horn.
Sometimes Mom and Dad would play Moonlight Sonata on the piano. The power of that song touches a deep chord within me still. How could anyone ever forget the Red River Valley or not long to hear Shenandoah? My great grandmother and I sang Do your ears hang low to the rhythm of her treadle sewing machine, and it was from her I learned all of Mama's babies loved short'nin' bread. Grandpa taught me Ezekial connected dem dry bones, and Grandma carried me back to ole Virginny. When I took piano lessons, I learned to play and sing flow gently, sweet Afton and rock-a-bye baby.
Later, I went to scout and church camp and learned more about life through songs. I was taught the more we get together, the happier we'll be. When I was happy and I knew it, I clapped my hands. I knew if you didn't want to have a mother-in-law and fourteen kids, you'd better sip your cider from a pail. Forget about trying to get to heaven on a kite because the kite string will surely break. I knew to cover my spaghetti if anyone looked like they were going to sneeze so my meatball wouldn't roll off, and I never ate a peanut I just found laying around. I loved the mountains and the rolling hills, and knew the king of the bush was Kookaburra. Michael rowed the boat ashore while sister trimmed the sail, and I entreated the Lord to kum by ya. It was good to know the day the teddy bears have their picnic, and that if it didn't rain any more I wouldn't have to wash my neck.
As a teen I learned you could hear the whistle blow five hundred miles. No one knew where all the flowers had gone, but we all knew we'd overcome some day. This land was your land and my land, and we had a song to sing in the morning and in the evening all over this land. Who was the man who shot Liberty Valance? The answer was blowin' in the wind. I wanted to live where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. I knew we didn't have a barrel of money, but we could travel along, singing a song, side by side.
When I grew older, songs took on new meanings for me. In the days of wine and roses, all you needed was love. Any day now, Johnny Angel, the Duke of Earl, and Henry the Eighth would wanna hold my hand. I found out the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond and only love can break a heart. Breaking up was hard to do, but we knew our day would come. Everybody was doing the loco-motion. Ahab the Arab sang my camel to bed. We enjoyed dancin' in the street after a hard day's night and feelin' glad all over. We knew a horse was a horse (of course) and now we've been to the desert on a horse with no name. Mustang Sally, Major Tom, Mrs. Robinson, and a boy named Sue were all born free as the grass grows. I had boys sing Brown-Eyed Girl to me, although I was a Green-Eyed Lady. I knew to say a little prayer and let the sunshine in. What a wonderful world I lived in. The sounds of silence were broken only by good vibrations. We still had operators to help us make our calls, and the bare necessities included sitting on the dock of the bay and in strawberry fields forever. All along the watchtower we could see a bridge over troubled waters where proud Mary and the girl from Ipanema went walking to the house of the rising sun.
If I wanted to sing about travel, there was a white room with black curtains at the station, and a magic bus. Some guy was always leaving on a jet plane, and by the time he got to Phoenix, his woman (the one who was ever gentle on his mind) would be rising. We wondered if our friends were going to Scarborough fair and knew those boots were made for walkin'. Whether tip toeing through the tulips or riding a yellow submarine, we knew the road was long with many a winding turn, but Mary Richards reminded us we were gonna make it after all. We celebrated summer in the city, but a hazy shade of winter was kind of a drag. Kentucky raindrops kept fallin' on our heads, but we could still let a smile be our umbrella. My generation was there for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and we coloured our world with hope. We bungled in the jungle and down on the corner, and learned to live and let die. Most of us looked at life from both sides now. Some tried to save time in a bottle. Mostly, I believe, we wanted to put a little love in our hearts.
Now that I'm older, the hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a million years. Memories light the corners of my mind, some too painful to remember. But it's the way we were. Welcome back, Kotter.
> BIOGRAPHY | about the author
Ginger Hamilton Caudill writes in spite of a husband, four children, a mentally disabled sister, four cats, a guinea pig, and a hamster, all of whom offer constant input.
[This first appeared in decompmagazine.com in 2005]