March 21, 2014
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!
Seven’s vocabulary has suddenly expanded.
Earlier in the week, she and Five talked on the way home for school. I told Seven that because the weather has improved so dramatically, she could probably stop wearing her boots to school and go back to wearing her sneakers that lace up.
She probably made a face; I’m not sure because my eyes were on the road. But we just bought Seven new boots recently, and she absolutely loves them. So it wouldn’t surprise me if she felt reluctant to give them up for the season.
I did hear Five laugh at her sister’s reaction, though, and the girls began a quick exchange about sneakers with laces.
“No offense,” Seven said, rounding out her half of the conversation, “but you don’t know how to tie your shoes.”
“I don’t know what ‘no offense’ means,” Five said.
No kidding. I didn’t know Seven even knew the phrase.
On Wednesday the kids and I made our way to Five’s school. Because of some work the city has begun on certain roads after the harsh winter, our regular route has been blocked off. We had to take a different street, following all the other people taking that route because of the road repair. This, of course, backed up traffic all the way to Five’s school, through the drop off line, and back onto the road.
As we waited at the exit from the school to the main road watching cars cross in front of us, I heard Seven say, “Okay, so we’re going to hang here for a little while.”
Hang here? Since when do we hang anywhere?
Recently in the girls’ music lessons, I’ve gotten the opportunity to see lines of pop culture cross in all sorts of crazy ways.
Five takes guitar lessons, so it kind of makes sense that her music book includes songs that either started on the guitar or lend themselves easily to it. I’ve seen the names Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon several times in there. Although it makes sense, I couldn’t help remarking to her teacher one day that I found it fascinating and even wonderful that these songs can transcend generations. The kids will never know firsthand what Beatle-mania was like, but they can partake of the legacy of music that drove it.
I didn’t know, though, that even guitar players get the opportunity to transcend from rock to classical music. Last week Five’s teacher flipped to a page in the middle of the book. At the top of the page was a depiction of the six notes she’s learned so far. In the middle of the page we saw some exercises to become even more fluent in those notes.
At the bottom of the page was the notation—a simplified version—for Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
I almost did a double-take. Beethoven? On the guitar?
Five’s teacher assured me that with a little practice Five would soon play those four lines of music too. And I couldn’t help feeling amazed and excited that she can produce so many different types of music with the same instrument and learn to love and appreciate them all. In the end isn’t that what art should teach us? To love and appreciate creativity in its various forms?
The other set of crossing cultural lines made both my husband and me laugh, probably because it somehow contains hints of irony.
Two weeks ago Seven came home after her violin lesson bursting with excitement. After practicing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for the last couple of lessons, her teacher had introduced her to a new song. She couldn’t wait to try it out, she said.
I don’t make the kids practice their instruments on lesson day, so on Wednesday of that week we pulled out the instruments and music to start chipping away at the new things the kids had learned. Seven took a few moments to study the notes for the new song and tried to work through them on the violin. I can’t read music at all, but after eight years in the choir (between junior high, high school, and two years in college,) I can follow whether notes go up or down and make a guess as to what it should sound like as she plays.
The new song, “Lightly Row,” sounded somewhat familiar but I couldn’t place it at the time. I just knew I’d heard the tune somewhere before. I couldn’t imagine where. I’ve never taken an instrument myself, and these are exactly the types of songs a person would find in beginner music lesson books and not really anywhere else.
The book comes with an instructional CD, so we listened to it and then figured out that the notes on the page had corresponding notations for what fingers to use. Once Seven saw that, she smiled really big and started working through the song on the violin with much more ease. It still nagged me, though, that I’d heard it before. But where?
Later that night as I lay in bed in the dark, one thought came to me just before falling asleep. Seven’s “Lightly Row” is Sheldon Cooper’s “Soft Kitty” on The Big Bang Theory.
For those of you who haven’t discovered this gem of a program yet, it’s a CBS sitcom about four scientist friends who navigate life, work, and love. These guys are the ultimate geeks, and I do mean ultimate. Any description or example I could give would probably not do the show justice, but I’ll give it a try with “Soft Kitty.”
One of the main characters, Sheldon Cooper (played by the award-winning—and rightfully so—Jim Parsons,) holds dear a song, “Soft Kitty,” from his childhood that his mother would sing whenever he got sick. The brilliant writers of the show have managed to work “Soft Kitty” into a few situations that have made me laugh so hard I actually have tears in my eyes. If you don’t believe me, just find clips or reruns of The Big Bang Theory online and you’ll understand.
The irony comes in the fact that here you have a genius scientist who occasionally has to resort to coping mechanisms from his childhood. If Jim Parsons didn’t play the role so well, all of this would just be utterly ridiculous. And yet the show’s creators and writers take the utterly ridiculous and make it relatable. Even to violin lessons now, it seems.
Ever since I figured out the song Seven is playing, whenever I hear her practice I can’t help singing the words to “Soft Kitty” and stifling a giggle.
The kids have spring break next week, but because of parent-teacher conferences Seven also had a half day off yesterday and all of today off. Earlier in the week she told me that on her time off from school when Five isn’t home, she wanted to work on the computer on her Reading Eggs. The program gives kids books to read online and then tests them on their comprehension. The “eggs” part comes when the kids earn eggs in proportion to the number of correct answers. The kids then take the eggs and can use them to buy a variety of virtual items.
The last time I took a good look at her purchases, Seven had scored herself an apartment with an ocean view and a living room full of furniture and animals. She had also designed quite the wardrobe for herself, and she likes to change her profile picture occasionally (something you can do without needing any eggs at all.)
Yesterday after I brought Seven home, we had lunch and then she scampered to the computer. She got settled in the big rolling chair, and I began washing the dishes and then straightening up. As I went to the bookshelf close to the computer to put something away, I glanced at the screen. The story sounded like some sort of fantasy.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” she said with a glance at me.
I took a second to process this and didn’t quite make it. “You mean, like Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’?”
She looked at me again, smiled, and nodded. I read the two pages shown on the computer, and even though the play had obviously been adapted for younger readers I could see whoever had done the job had worked hard to retain the whimsical quality that Shakespeare used. It sounded fun and interesting and like something I would want to read.
Uh…my seven-year-old is reading Shakespeare. Gulp.