I don’t have a lot of family traditions to share with my grandchildren, but I cherish the few that I do and take every opportunity to plant those seeds so they might in turn be passed down to future generations.

One of my fondest memories of growing up was walking down the street with my Mom, singing as we went. We didn’t have a car, so there was a lot of walking: To school, to church, to the grocery store, everywhere we went.

We lived on East 25th Street, near where the old Colonial Bakery used to be. Mom worked at Texas Gas. Trust me, anyone making that walk twice a day — in the snow, rain, sleet or heat — had to be a person of strong character, as well as strong legs, with a determination to keep going, much less to keep singing.

But that was my Mom.

It never occurred to me to complain about walking, if only because Mom never did.

And anyway, she made it fun.

We talked. We told stories. We told jokes.

And we sang.

She liked the old hymns best. You know, the classics: “Amazing Grace.” “The Old Rugged Cross.” “How Great Thou Art.”

Let me tell you, hitting those high notes at the end of “How Great Thou Art” ain’t easy when you are out of breath and the air is thin and cold.

Anyway, I was driving along with my grandgirl Briley not long ago, and it occurred to me this was the perfect opportunity to introduce her to this family tradition, such as it is.

“Let’s sing,” I suggested. “What songs do you know?”

She shrugged, a little shy. “I don’t know,” she said.

I cast about in the depths of my memory, trying to remember the songs I had learned in music class at elementary school. “Shenandoah.” “Low Bridge/The Erie Canal.” “A Bicycle Built for Two.”

Sheesh, these sounded old-fashioned — even to me. Briley would never go for these songs. Gamely, I plowed forward.

“How about ‘Yankee Doodle’?” I suggested.

She shook her head. “I don’t know that song,” she said.

Disguising my horror, I said, “How about ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’?”

Nope.

Scrambling to salvage this exercise, I said, “Well, I know you know ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ Let’s sing that!”

So we did, loudly and enthusiastically.

Then we sang “Jingle Bells.”

My next suggestion was “Silent Night,” but she didn’t know that one either. I seriously need to have a conversation with her mother. But I can’t be too hard on them; I’ve been intending to learn this song in German for about 50 years now, with zero progress.

“Never mind,” I soothed her — or myself. “I will teach you some songs.”

So line by line, I sang “Yankee Doodle,” and she sang it back to me, until finally we could sing together, start to finish, the whole way through.

For good measure, I also tossed in “Row Row Row Your Boat,” although we never were quite successful with singing that in rounds, and then just for fun, I taught her “Soft Kitty,” which she liked.

But I wasn’t entirely sure how successful my efforts had been until a few weeks later when I once again had the opportunity to drive Briley somewhere.

“Do you remember any of the songs I taught you?” I asked warily.

She nodded brightly, eyes sparkling. “Let’s sing the ‘Macaroni ’n’ Cheese’ song,” she chirped.

I floundered for a moment, then laughed. “Oh, ‘Yankee Doodle’ — ‘Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni!’”

We laughed together, we sang together, and somewhere, away far off in the distance of time and space, I thought I heard the echo of my Momma’s voice of approval: “How Great Thou Art.”

(1) comment

Steve Bailes

[smile][smile][smile] thanks for sharing these tender moments. It brought back memories of singing with my mom and dad and me with my children.

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