• Rachel

With a smile and a song

Have you experienced the freeing power of letting song pour out?

I watched a little girl I know swing on a swing not long ago, before the social distancing of today, on an unusually nice day in winter. Though the playground was full of other children and adults, to her it may as well have been just that child and that swing. She closed her eyes as she pumped with all her might, up and down. She sang out over and over, "Let it go! Let it go!" lyrics from Disney's Frozen.

What a moment of unrestrained joy! For that moment in time, my young friend was completely caught up in the world of her own imagination, likely pretending to be Princess Elsa creating a castle of ice or maybe just appreciating the feeling of the motion of her swing. But she was without embarrassment or reserve, singing out from her heart. For that moment, she did let it go, not worrying about who might be listening, what they might think, or when someone might tell her it was time to go in.

The simple, unrestricted joys

I remember swinging on swings as a child myself. That is one simple pleasure children of my era share with those of today. It was a glorious thing to swing as high as the swing could take me and back again. It was magnificent to feel the rhythm of the swing's steady movement, working with the swing to create that perfect sensation of nearly flying and to allow my imagination to soar wherever it cared to go as well.

My little granddaughters sing and dance for me in a way that is unscripted. They sing words to songs familiar to them, simply starting over or skipping to something they remember as needed. They dance spontaneously, moving about in no particular pattern. When they wear princess dresses or fairy dresses or mermaid tails, they exude joy in imagining their lives as princesses, fairies, or mermaids. These creative exercises are part of their development and will help them develop empathy and make choices about who they want to be.

Feel the music

A man I have seen occasionally at the gym in those pre-quarantine days reminds me in his way of my little friend and my granddaughters. For me, the gym was just something on the things-to-do list. I never wanted to go but usually went in anyway so I didn't feel guilty. I hoped but don't really expect it to be of some obvious benefit. I do like the rowing machine, which reminds me of the motion of a swing. And sometimes I've been lucky and there has been something more interesting than the Shopping Channel on the televisions mounted on the wall of the gym.

For at least that one delightful man at the gym, the gym was not a chore at all. He obviously listened to music through earbuds, though of course, the rest of us couldn't hear it. But more than just listening, the man felt the music, closing his eyes and moving rhythmically to its beat as he went about his task of lifting weights. He obviously loved the music, and it inspired him to move. He didn't seem to worry about who might be watching him, and I'm grateful that he didn't.

Why not?

I remember long ago my daughter as a three-year-old taking off her shoes and splashing through a puddle of water after church. I didn't notice in time to stop her, but seeing her happiness, I had no desire to stop her. Had she asked, I might have said no without stopping to ask myself "why not?" But why not? What a carefree movement of harmless fun. And how I enjoyed the amused expression of a few fellow churchgoers.

It is no secret that song can make the mundane more enjoyable. It lightens loads. Music has power to depress, to motivate, to inspire. We hear it and want to dance, want to sing, want to do things, maybe great things. People have traditionally sung while they worked, worshiped, or celebrated.

Sing in the rain

In the fifties, musicals came to the entertainment world a couple of decades after movies with sound. Audiences saw Gene Kelly perform "Singing in the Rain," in a musical by the same title, singing and dancing on a sound studio made to resemble a rainy night on an ordinary street. While others stay in out of the downpour or hurry to get indoors, Kelly's character, having met a young woman who brightens his world, delights in dancing with his umbrella, stomping in puddles, and feeling the the rain on his face. It is a glorious scene, a depiction of someone as sublimely happy as the little girl on the swing, my little granddaughters in their princess gowns, the man at the gym, or my own daughter in her childhood, stomping in a puddle so long ago.

I haven't figured out how to dance in the rain without alarming the neighbors, but I have now and then walked in the rain, singing under an umbrella, the rest of the world oblivious. It is as Gene Kelly sings in the musical, "a glorious feeling."


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