Each night, Axel treats us to an outdoor concert.
He’s got a stage – on the back porch, standing on the third rung of the ladder that leads up to his slide. This, he says, is “a singing place.” He brings up a stick for a microphone, and starts belting out his favorite tunes – mostly classics, like ABCs.
The newest song? Row Row Row Your Boat, the post-potty handwashing song and all around favorite. The lyrics have been updated, to reflect the life of a city kid who lives in the arid western US.
Row row row you boat, gently down the street
Merry merry merry hurray
Life is butter dreams/like a butter dream/like a butter drink
He also creates original bath time tunes, like this:
This is my bath song, bath song bath song.
I’m singing in the bath
My bath song
I like salami, bath song, bath song
I like pirates, but not the pirates that go boom
I know, it’s brilliant. He mentions salami, pirates, explosions, and bathing all in one song.
While Axel sings, Jonas bounces in place, chants ba-ba-ba da-da-das and nonsense like a little Swedish Chef, and claps enthusiastically.
Both boys are so tuned in to music, and they didn’t get it from me. Sure, I like music, but I also forget what’s on – sometimes my husband walks in the room and says, “What song is that?” It’s not in a tone of interest about the hot new thing – it’s more like, “What in the world are you listening to?” I, still in the age of digital music, roam between radio stations, find a song I like, and then forget that the radio’s on, even though I’m in the same room. I get distracted by dishes and what’s for dinner, and replying to emails, and all of a sudden Buddy Holly (I’ve got a thing for 50s and 60s music) is done and somebody’s warbling about moonshadows. I went through a brief phase trying to play the guitar and the drums, but I realized I wanted to be able to play the guitar more than I wanted to actually practice and play. Wanting to own an accomplishment and loving to do that thing are not one and the same.
But kids under three aren’t ever in that first group – they don’t care if something’s on their resume. My boys just love shaking, banging, singing, strumming. Axel and Jonas are more like their own father, and my father, in the way they respond to music. Axel wants to know who’s singing during the opening to You Can’t Always Get What You Want. He requests the Ramones. He asks after the guitar and pan flute player from the farmer’s market, and wants to know where he is at various times of the day, and if he’s playing the flute at the exact same moment that Axel’s riding in the car. The woman who leads the family sing-a-long class is his idol, and we talk about what she eats for lunch.
Last weekend, we visited a friend who has a guitar, and also a kid-sized ukelele. Axel strumed the ookelele, as he calls it, and marched around the house. While we were in California, we visited a family friend, and the older (elementary school-aged) girls generously shared their guitar with Axel, who played a medly of tunes for us. Jonas had a prime front row seat.
Now we know what to get Axel for his third birthday: a stringed instrument for his one-boy band. Actually, make that two-boy band. He’s got a little brother egg-shaker rhythm section. Then, we’ll get this show on the road.