Something About Little Girls That Turns Fathers Into Crooners
(Indianapolis Star 6/18/05)
“Yeah, I love my baby, heart and soul. Love like ours won’t
never grow old. She’s my sweet little thing. She’s my pride
It was 8:22 am as I sat fiddling with my digital camera, anxiously awaiting
the doctor to pull our new baby girl out of a c-section delivery into
a new world.
Batteries work? Yep. My wife smiled with the glow of a properly placed
Wait… Was that “Pride and Joy” playing on the speakers
in the operating room?
Here she is ! Out came Emma Noelle, wailing, kind of messy, but seemingly
squirming to the blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn. It was an odd, never envisioned
moment. My first baby girl was just born into the world accompanied by
a randomly appropriate piece of music chosen by a local rock jock.
I was expecting some nondescript new age music. Maybe a piece of forgettable
Muzak. But the top rated morning drive show on the radio? Well OK, it
Now, for some reason, I can’t hold Emma without singing to her.
Sure, I sang to my two boys when they were babies, but never pop music.
Joel and Riley got the nursery staples. Patty Cake Patty Cake, or Mary
Had a Little Lamb, maybe Away In The Manger during the winter.
Emma hears Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life”,
or Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way”.
I sing a mean Lionel Richie. “Just to be close to you, girl…”
There must be something about little girls that turns fathers into crooners.
And after a few decades of exposure to Top 40 radio, I have a library
of singable hits residing like an overstuffed iPod in my brain.
Like most of America, I live in a never-ending soundtrack. It’s
hard to go through a day without a tune resonating between my ears. Can’t
make it out of the bathroom at work without humming a disco hit of the
seventies. Can’t drive home in a quiet car.
Indeed, there are plenty of pop songs to choose from when singing to a
baby girl. In fact, 97 percent of all pop songs are about women, girls,
or nice looking strangers staring at you across the bar, beach, or dance
floor. So it’s no wonder that just about any pop song can be sung
to a newborn baby girl and make minimal sense.
The problem is that certain pop songs sneak through tiny ceiling speakers
at the oddest times in our lives, stick in our inner conscience, and can
never be removed. And therefore, never sung to an infant.
Why do I hear Engelbert Humperdinck’s After The Lovin’ and
think of sitting terrified in the examining chair, staring at the hairy
nostrils of Dr. Schue, my dentist in the fifth grade?
“So I’ll sing you to sleep, after the lovin’.”
(The high- pitched whirl of a dental drill overtakes the tune at this
And why do the words “Charlie Rich” conjure up the stench
of stale cigarette smoke and the snippety-snip of clippers at Gary’s
Barber Shop when I was eight?
“Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world…”
(click, zzzzz,, goosebumps up my neck as the electric shaver takes off
the peach fuzz.)
Of course, there’s a Kleenex box full of tunes associated with adolescent
girlfriend breakups that are off limits. Suffice to say, Emma won’t
be hearing anything from the group Journey.
The cord was cut. The nurses took Emma over to the baby warmer to clean
her up, check her weight, poke and pry her just enough to really make
Her eyes stayed shut all this time.
Then, as she lay quivering on the antiseptic tray, Emma suddenly paused
and ever so slowly opened one eye. A periscope into a new universe.
What a moment, I thought. What a moment for….KISS?
“I wanna rock-n-roll all night.,.and party every day, Yeah I wanna
rock-n-roll all night…”
Uh, excuse me nurse. Could you turn the station please?
Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre
at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2004 Ted Mandell.
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