There was rarely a time when there wasn’t music playing in my house when my children were little. Whether it was the drive-me-crazy ditties playing on Barney the Dinosaur videos or the timeless pop of the Beatles, my kids and I did a lot of singing and dancing during those sometimes endlessly long toddler and pre-school days. The reason for this was simple – it was how I spent my childhood, too, when I would lay on the floor looking at album covers or gleefully sing along to the Beatles just like my kids did years later.
It used to be such a thrill to hear an old song that could evoke memories, startling me in the middle or an otherwise regular day with suddenly vivid and even heart-stopping moments in my life that had been tucked away quietly, revisited through a song lyric or a few familiar chords that I hadn’t heard in decades. Scents would waft up out of nowhere, imaginary but true. Voices would return, some forgotten over time, some welcome, some not. All from a little snippet of a song. Now, with on-demand stations for every musical genre and decade, those long-forgotten tunes are on perpetual repeat, and the surprise and joy of remembering through music has become a rare thing.
My daughter was visiting one day and we decided to watch the new “Beauty and the Beast,” which we had both missed in theaters. It was charming and lovely and had wonderful actors like Kevin Kline and Emma Watson, and we settled in for one of our favorite things to do – see a musical. Even after my little boy grew out of his appreciation of Disney songs and Barney videos and left his pre-school years behind him, my daughter continued to love musicals as much as I do. She spent much of her childhood singing, whether in a performance on stage or in her bedroom. The animated “Beauty and the Beast” was a favorite for about 6 months when my children were little, and they would twirl around and around the house, dancing and singing with the completely un-self-conscious joy that only little children can experience.
So there we were, shades drawn, lights off, when it came time for Belle and the Beast to go to the ball. You know the scene, where Belle is in her yellow dress and the Beast is all spiffed up and in the background is Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson – so amazing) singing “Beauty and the Beast.”
And that’s when I began to cry.
Not just a little cry, though. Big, sobby, wet-faced crying. It was so sudden, and I was so deeply sad that it was overwhelming. The painfully wonderful memories of being mommy to those two little kids who would dance and sing with abandon when they watched this movie, over and over, came to me, seemingly as vivid and real as my grown-up daughter was, sitting with me, and as my grown-up son was when he stopped by during the movie for a few minutes to say hello and pick up some mail. Where were those little babies that I squeezed and kissed and loved and cared for? How had they disappeared?
And for the millionth time I asked myself, how did it go so fast?
I am struck by the power of music once again, by the way I could be brought to tears after just a few notes…”Tale as old as time…”
And by how much I love my children.