Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Curse of Love at Home

Wrote the poet, "There is beauty all around When there's love at home;" (Hymns, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 294)

This is a favorite hymn of the LDS Church, and I grew up singing it at the top of my not inconsiderable lungs through most of my childhood (and beyond). With my little girls, it's become a favorite song for our evening prayer time. Until just before Christmas, it was easily one of the most requested songs every night. It's a beautiful hymn with a wonderful message, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who wishes to bring a sense of peace into their homes.

Except for the curse.

There is a wonderful legend in the classical music world. This version uses Mendelssohn, but I've also heard versions with Beethoven and Liszt (credit SermonWarehouse):

The great composer, Felix Mendelssohn, had a bad habit of being late for appointments. One reason for this is that he liked to sleep late. Consequently, there were times when his students came to his home for a morning lesson and Mendelssohn would still be in bed. On one occasion, a student grew tired of waiting and figured out a way to get the master downstairs in a hurry. He went to the piano and struck an unresolved chord. He knew that if there was anything that could bring that man to attention it was an unresolved chord. The story ends, of course, with Mendelssohn springing out of his bed and rushing down to the piano to resolve the chord for the student.

I use this story to illustrate how music - any music - badly or incompletely performed can be painful to a discerning ear. My mother understood this principle all too well in my childhood, and used it to great advantage.

As with most families, we siblings squabbled a great deal. From the absolute petty to the major issues, we bickered. With four, and, later, five youngsters possessed of tremendous lung capacity, Mom was constantly looking for creative ways to get our collective attention. It wasn't easy. Then one day - I can remember neither the conflict nor the participants - our young ears were assaulted with a ghastly noise. Mom, singing as off-key and as loudly as she could muster, pelted the house with a sound that can only be compared to a recital given by drunken Shriners.

The song? "Love at Home," of course. "LOOOOOOOOVE AAAAAAAAAAAT HOOOOOOOOOOOME!" repeated as many times as necessary to stun us into submission. It generally worked. No matter what the conflict, the presence of a common enemy helped us to cease arguing, clap our hands over our ears and plead with our sainted mother for our auditory lives.

The curse, of course, is that I now do this to my own children. My lungs happen to be even better than Mom's, and I can get considerably more volume than she did. Furthermore, my sweet girls have a Mommy who has trained their ears to listen to things with the volume down, so that when Daddy is in full voice, he often hears, "Daddy! Could you sing quieter?" (We're still working on "more quietly" versus "quieter," but why split hairs for this story?)

Lately, with the girls at 7 and 5, the bickering has increased a bit. Normally my girls play very sweetly together, as long as the older one is getting her way. Occasionally, however, as 5 year olds are wont to do, the younger one decides she wants to do something else for awhile, and the bickering begins. Daddy then draws a nice, well-supported breath, and bellows, "LOOOOOOOOVE AAAAAAAAAAAT HOOOOOOOOOOOME!" I generally only have to sing that phrase twice, before the girls are giggling helplessly on the floor with hands over ears, pleading:

"Do that again, Daddy! Pleeeeeeze?"

Some day I'll write about curses that backfire.

UPDATE: Cameron relives the curse. As he points out, "at least Mom never had to resort to whuppin' us upside da head."

Not that we didn't deserve it...

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