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Play It Again, Ma, for Mother’s Day

When I was a child, my mom used to play music on Sundays.  She probably played it every day, but it’s that Sunday music I recall most.  She’d pick out a few albums, including the usuals — Nicolette Larson’s “Nicolette”, Eric Clapton’s “Slowhand” and Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” — lean them up against the wood record player console cabinet, pull the first piece of vinyl out of its sleeve, place it down on the turntable, position the needle on the groove, and let life happen.

She would dance and sway her head while singing along to the lyrics.  And I, a five- or six-year old, would imagine I was Nicolette with her long hair and roller skates singing about how it was “gonna take a lotta love to change the way things are”.  While some were honouring the sacred and holy day, I was falling in love with Dylan asking a lady to lay across his big brass bed.  Those drums and a very early understanding of anticipation have never left me.  As my mom would close her eyes and hum along to Clapton’s “Cocaine”, I would sing, “She’s alright, she’s alright, she’s alright, cocaine.”  Wrong lyrics I would learn years later, but similar meaning.

The slightly muffled music coming from the speakers, the air, the time together is what I remember before my mom broke my heart.  Not in a “No you can’t have a quadruple scoop ice cream” or an “I don’t care if Sally Sue has the glitter hula hoop that emits a tune if you gyrate just right, you’re not getting one” sort of way, but in a way so profound it has impacted several aspects of my life.  I don’t believe she did it intentionally.

My mom is the child of a woman who — I’ve been given the impression — was not the most maternal.  She had some of her many children taken away, and my mom was forced to live in several different foster homes.  My mom married, had her marriage annulled, eventually met my father and became pregnant with me all while still a teenager.

I won’t make excuses for the fact she abandoned me and my brother as a lost traveller will sometimes leave behind his belongings in an attempt to persevere, but perspective is a helpful tool in life.  As are adversities.  She had adversities, I have adversities, my sons will have adversities.  But whichever hardships might be thrown their way, my boys will never, ever have to worry about me not being there for them.  For as long as Enlai and Lumen will allow me to, I will continue to sing and dance with them on Sundays and Wednesdays and probably even Tuesdays.  We will boogie until our limbs are shaky, sing the wrong lyrics, and laugh.

In honour of this Mother’s Day, I’ve gathered a list of some mother-related songs, written by mothers for their children, by sons or daughters for their mother, songs about mothers, about choices, about childbirth, about the passing of time, the majority of songs which are admittedly fairly sad and strike a personal chord.  My boys have listened to all these songs, and while the little guy wants to dance to everything, including ballads, my big boy is asking about lyrics and why singers choose to sing songs the way they do.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who listen to music with their children, who sing and who dance with them.

Aloe Blacc – Mama Hold My Hand

John Lennon – Mother

James Brown – Mother Popcorn

Ray LaMontagne – Hey Me, Hey Mama

Lauryn Hill – Zion

Christina Aguilera – Oh Mother

Nina Simone – Blues for Mama

This Woman’s Work – written by Kate Bush and covered by Maxwell

For Mama – written by Charles Aznavour and covered by Ray Charles

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