Chariton Valley News Press
Attending the Vesper practice last Monday night and writing about the service sent me into flashbacks. I remember being a part of the Vesper program while a member of the high school choir way back when. I don’t remember the song we sang that year but I remember practicing it over and over and over again during class. I had never attended the service until that year but I was impressed with how everyone came together to present a moving program to start the Christmas season.
Music has always been a part of my life. While attending grade school at Prairie Hill, the Christmas program was a highlight of my grade school years. I’ll never forget how excited I was to receive a lead role in the play my sixth grade year, then how frustrating it was to have to stay in during recess when I didn’t learn all my lines quick enough or have the songs memorized correctly. The program always contained lots of music as every class from kindergarten to the sixth graders performed a number.
The hours spent in a tractor with my oldest brother throughout my childhood was filled with the country music of the 70s and 80s. As I entered junior high and high school, I still loved country music but pop music and the 80s hair bands entered my musical selections as well.
Friday nights through the winter in Salisbury usually meant there was a teen dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall and I was usually one of the first ones in the hall and last ones to leave. These days, the commercials for the 80s pop music usually brings a burst of laughter as I look back at the musicians and their wild attire and hair. Every once in a while I actually catch the words to some of the songs and bust out laughing even harder. What exactly were they trying to say?
As I grew older and got married, I was once again sucked in by country music as George Strait was making waves. I still have to smile when my kids bust into a George Strait or Randy Travis song. Larry was determined to make sure his kids didn’t listen to anything but country. The day each kid was brought home from the hospital he promptly broke out the cassette player and the George Strait “Unwound” album. He figured he had better start them off right.
By the time Jake was born, the cassette was getting frayed and he was actually worried he couldn’t “imprint” him correctly.
Apparently his plan worked because all three kids have been country music fans since they could talk. Each one of them had a favorite song.
With Joni, we listened to the song “Wink” by Neil McCoy hundreds of times. With Jeana, it was her daddy’s favorite, George Strait, and “Check Yes or No” and with Jake it was “Little Bitty” by Alan Jackson. I’m pretty sure I can still sing every word to all three of those songs to this day as many times as I heard them.
When Tracy Byrd remade the song “Don’t Take Her She’s All I Got”, it caught the attention of all three of the kids. Whenever that song came on the radio in the van, Larry and I either turned it up really loud to drown those three out or plugged our ears immediately. We knew they were going to be singing in unison at the top of their voices – they may have been in unison but they certainly weren’t in tune.
Of the three kids, Jeana was the one that loved music the most. She was determined to learn to play the guitar and be the next Reba. She certainly had the hair and lungs but the pitch and tone lacked a little to be desired. She had a Reba cassette she would always listen to whenever it was her turn to mow the yard.
One bright summer day as we were all working outside, Jeana jumped on the mower with my old Walkman and happily pulled out of the barn to mow. All was going well – Jake and Joni were helping clean in the barn, the sun was shining and work was getting done without fights or tantrums.
Then we all heard it. Jeana was belting out Reba songs with fervor.
As I said before Jeana had the lungs to rival Reba – we could plainly hear her over the mower. So could the neighbors, the horses and maybe even the citizens of Clifton Hill. Jake was grabbing his ears begging us to make it stop. Joni was mastering the big sister eye roll and look of disgust.
We tried to convince both of them that it really wasn’t that bad but the sight of a 1,500 pound mare cringing then turning tail and heading for the far end of the farm was pretty convincing that it really was that bad. Every horse we had at the time ended up at the far end of the pasture against the north fence. I’m pretty sure they were wishing they could bring their front legs over their heads and plug their ears with their hooves.
Eventually the yard was finished and the mower put up for another week. We all recuperated from the incident and the bleeding from our ears eventually stopped but to this day I still have to laugh whenever I hear “Fancy” by Reba. It just isn’t the same song.
Music of all genres – be it country, Christian, church hymns, or a well-written top 40 song – has a healing and motivating factor for me. I tend to crank up the radio whenever I need motivation to clean the house or my mood makes me a not so pleasant co-worker. Random songs on the radio bring memories flooding back and soothe a cranky mood quickly when I least expect it.
These days, the convenience of an iPod makes my days go a little smoother. It mixes all the genres from across the decades that I enjoy into a small two by two package that is easy to take with me wherever I go. It motivates me to stay on the treadmill a little longer and work on all those Christmas presents that I thought it would be a good idea to make this year.
Along the way, it also brings a flood of memories that make me laugh out loud. So if you see me walking some morning with my ear buds in and I suddenly bust out laughing, chances are Reba is taking me back in time. It really isn’t a bad way to start the day.