For my father's Christmas present a few years ago, he was 70, I gave him a homemade gift. I compiled a notebook of songs, with guitar chords. For the cover, I made a collage of photos taken at the family reunion four months earlier. I slipped into the front of the song book two things. A CD I recorded with my two children of my father's favorite songs, and a "poem" which I hoped would convey my appreciation for the gift of music my father had given us growing up.
On Christmas Day, when Dad called, he was choking back tears. He loved the present and was happy I had understood what he had tried to give us all those years.
I thought I'd share the poem and the collage, as I think the idea is an inexpensive gift of love, that others might find just the right type of thing for that PERFECT CHRISTMAS PRESENT.
Songs of Our Youth
Songs were sung in the dark -- children sang with freedom
Encouraged by their father -- For whom music defined life
I recall those years in my brothers’ room
The door closed, the lights off, the shades drawn
Six children and Dad sitting on four beds
Dad leading us in song.
Song was how we passed the time on long car trips
Song was how we shared our love with grandparents, who were dying.
Singing together was attractive
To other children, not blessed with our family love of music
Audiences formed out of nowhere when we sang together
Children eased up to join us– eager to feel part of the song.
What we learned as children has served us in our adult lives well
We are not afraid to sing out -- eager to listen to others’ song
We choose to harmonize with those willing to sing along
Our children have heard our songs --They have learned the tunes we’ve taught them
They have added harmonies of their own -- And they have added songs to our collection.
On a cool summer night in Pennsylvania
We all gathered around a roaring campfire
Dad, two of his brothers, the five surviving children, the youngest brother, not part of the original mix, our nine children and husbands and wives and friends
Three of us had guitars; all of us had eager voices
And we sang.
We sang the old songs, learned in the dark
We sang some new songs, acquired along the way
We laughed as we sang verses out of order
Or when the chords we struck were in discord with the voices.
The children displayed the freedom of youth, as they danced in the light of the fire.
Those of us with some age enjoyed their enthusiasm, as we sang the songs of our youth.