Mommy Drives the Car

My stepdaughter’s girls always want to play my guitar. Since the older one is just now eight, I’ve never been eager to allow too much of this. Guitars are big, slippery, fragile things, compared to tiny, not always gentle girlies. “Okay,” I will tell them when I have the energy for it, “but let me get it down and make sure it’s still in tune. And we can only play it on the bed, all right?” This is not what they really have in mind, but they humor me. Sometimes they will let me chord while they strum, but naturally they want to do everything themselves.

For the three-year-old, I arrange pillows to support the guitar neck, then lay it down for her to play, as I hold it just enough to make sure it stays on the bed. She will sometimes pat the guitar and say, “It’s so beautiful, Linda!”

“Can you feel the wood vibrate, the way it moves under our hands, when we pluck the strings?” I will ask her. “That’s part of how it makes such a big sound. And when I hold down some sttrings, these wires, with my fingers, can you hear how the sounds change?” Guess we both think it’s beautiful, even when I am playing.

Last Halloween Miriam may have watched too many scary movies, for when I mentioned that the big part is called the body of the guitar, and the long part with the row of wires is its neck, she said, “The guitar has a body? I don’t want to touch it!” But she’s bigger and braver now, and still wanted to play even while she was a little afraid of that big, resonating guitar. Now she even wants to know what all the parts are called, including some I need to look up. “Is the round hole the guitar’s mouth?” she has asked. Something I never even wondered about. If not, it should be, I told her.

One day last month, we got all set up on the bed, and Miriam began banging away with both hands — think Sex Pistols or early Ramones. And singing — loudly. “My mommy drives her ca – ar!” Clang, twang! “She takes us to the grocery store.” More clanging! “Mommy plays her music loud!” More twanging! “She says she’ll take me to school when I’m older.!” She can almost sing in tune now, but with no chording, the sound was pretty raucous, and if she had a melody in mind to go with the words, I couldn’t discern it. But as I sat there holding the guitar for her, I wondered if I might be witnessing the first efforts of a young songwriter.

As her big sister Mishal and I have observed, Miriam can sound surprisingly tuneful when she plays the piano. Hearing the older girl practice seems to have given her a sense of how things should sound. But she can’t pick out melodies yet. “Does that sound like “Jingle Bells?” she will ask after playing a few notes. “I don’t know to do it!” is her cry of frustration when she tries “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. She had a solid tempo going with the car song though, and she kept at it off and on for at least two weeks, with some new lines cropping up, and some changes in the rhythm. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Unusual persistance for her age, I thought.

At some point, I began writing down all the lines I could remember, and seeing if I might arrange them into verses. I’ve taken some liberties, but I’d say at least seventy-five percent of these lyrics are from things Miriam has said, though not everything was part of her initial song sessions. Here is my final version, though her sister and grandpa have already started adding more verses. Such is folk music.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Mommy Drives the Car
– by Miriam Saeed, L. L. Frederick

My mommy always drives her car.
she takes us somewhere every day.
sometimes we go to Grandpa’s house,
or to the park where we can play.

And when we’re driving in the car,
I see the houses, cars and trees.
I watch for flowers, cats and clouds,
and sometimes people wave to me.

My mommy puts my window down,
but not when it gets colder.
she says someday I’ll drive the car,
but not until I’m older.

My mommy always drives her car.
she drives us to the grocery store.
she takes my sister to her school,
and after that we drive some more.

One day I saw a fire truck,
and a police car racing down the street.
no one will lock us in the jail,
if I stay in my baby seat.

My mommy always drives her car.
she takes us to the library.
we find new books and movies too,
then when I’m good she reads to me.

And sometimes when we’re in the car,
Mishal and I share Scooby snacks.
but if she tries to grab my ear,
it makes me want to hit her back.

Then Mommy tells us, that’s enough!
my girls should never fuss and fight.
let’s sing the bullfrog song instead,
while we wait for the go-green light.

My mommy always drives her car.
she takes our doggies to the vet.
and when we’re driving just too long,
I say Mommy, are we there yet?

One day when mommy drove the car,
we took Grandpa to the hardware store,
so he could come and fix our sink.
and it’s not drippy any more.

My mommy drives us all the time.
sometimes we go to Zoombizi Bay!
she drives Mishal to dancing class,
and takes us to our friends’ birthdays!

My mommy always drives her car.
sometimes we go for ice cream cones.
my mommy plays the music loud,
and we sing “magic dragon” all the way home.

–17 February, 2011

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About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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