Songs to Raise Girls: The Humpty Dumpty Blues

This is Malcolm K. Ottaway, my father, singing the Humpty Dumpty Blues in 2009.

He made them up when I was two. Here are the two stories that my mother would tell and that I finally linked.

In the early 1960s my parents married at age 21 and were both going to the University of Tennessee. They married in June and I was born the next March. In a tuberculosis sanatorium, because my mother started coughing blood at 8 months pregnant. She thought she was going to die. She didn’t die, but after I was born she did not hold me again until I was nine months old. I was suspicious of adults by then, because they kept giving me away.

My parents had music parties, where my father played guitar. My mother had a prodigious memory and would remember every verse, so she was the last one singing. My mother said, “At one party you wanted your father to play Humpty Dumpty. He wouldn’t. You were the only child there. You kept asking. Finally he made up the Humpty Dumpty Blues. You were so angry at him that you stomped your feet at him and everyone laughed.”

And the second story: “One morning after a party, your father picked up his guitar. It RATTLED. It had 17 beer bottle caps in it. We checked and not one person had seen you pick up a beer bottle cap or put it through the strings. It took your father hours to slide the bottle caps out from under the strings with a butter knife.”

Well, that will teach him to not sing a song for the two year old. At any rate, he sang the Humpty Dumpty Blues my whole life. I don’t remember the original party or sliding bottle caps through the strings. I must have done it after the party was over, right? Did I go during the party and pick up every cap I could find, or did I already have a hidden stash? Two year olds can be sneaky, apparently.

At any rate, I am very happy to have the recording now, even though the original made me stomp my feet.

The photograph is of me, in about 1963 or 64. I don’t know who took it, but it was taken at Lake Matinenda, in Ontario, Canada.

Songs to Raise Girls: three songs

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is memorize, and oh, what I have memorized! I saw a t-shirt at the Nowhereelse Festival in Ohio that said, “My memory is 80% lyrics.” Yes, me too, a mix of songs, poetry and books that I have read. My sister Chris and I were busily memorizing songs as soon as we could. Here are three very educational songs for young girls. The last one we learned from our cousin, who was a girl scout and a girl scout leader. She was in the calendar one year, making cookies. I was very very impressed and a little jealous.

I bought a four hour recording session at a silent auction and the recordings are me and my sister and my father. We did them in two sessions. We made a list of songs and lost it immediately so we all took turns suggesting songs. My mother had already died of cancer. My sister died in 2012 and my father in 2013. I am so glad to have these recordings. We called it Mocoko for Malcolm Ottaway, Chris Ottaway and Katherine Ottaway. We sang most of them just once and so they are not polished, but I still am happy to have them.

Bridget O’Flynn

I sang Bridget O’Flynn to my daughter when she called me about dancing. “Mom! I love to twirl!” Um, well, yes, your parents met at a contra dance at Glenn Echo Park in Maryland. We love to twirl too.

Late in the evening

A cautionary song, an old barbershop quartet song, that we sang.

Fascinating Lady

I wonder if the girl scouts still sing this.

The photograph is my son scaring me. Ok, that boulder is sitting there balanced BUT! GET OUT OF THERE! Taken in Palm Springs in 2011 up on the mesa. Beautiful.

get real girl

While I organize, I find things. Most of the barbies apparently got blown up with firecrackers one time when I was not home. Both of my children were involved with this. “Not the babies,” says my daughter. “Also not the Get Real Girl, since she is yours.”

Well, the Get Real Girl is the camping one, with backpack, GPS, camping stove, frying pan and fried eggs. Apparently she is not a vegan. She acquired the diving equipment from a barbie set and was all ready to go in the water (no wet suit though) when one of the barbie babies landed in her lap. Gosh, now what! As you can see, they seem to be bonding even though Get Real is not going diving today. I will have to see if there is another Action Figure around the house that could hold the baby while Get Real dives….

We had another Get Real Girl, one who plays basketball. I have found a lower leg and foot. I suspect that she met her fate with the barbies, poor thing. Maybe my kids will give me another Get Real Girl for Christmas…..

Mother’s Day Songs: motherless children

A friend and I are talking about Mother’s Day yesterday.

Somehow having a song about Mother’s Day came up. “Bet I can think of one.” I say.

“Humph.” says the friend. Or some skeptical comment.

I start singing.

“That’s NOT a mother’s day song.” says my friend.

“Well, it is if your mother is dead.”

“It’s not cheerful.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

So here is a recording. I haven’t learned the guitar part yet so I thought… well heck, why not sing along with Dave Van Ronk?* This is the third take. Might replace it with a later take later today.

Trigger warning: I miss my mom. This is about missing our moms. Hugs, all.

sing along with Dave Van Ronk

Happy Mother’s Day and hugs if you miss your mother.

*Is this a copyright violation? It probably is. Someone yell at me if it is. My brain is muttering something about sampling. Let’s see, from circa 1959 to 1961… does that make a difference?

winter morning

I love the orange sky and peach and lemon and tangerine, just as the sun rises! This has been a difficult week with the time change and with a concert or concert rehearsal four out of the last 5 evenings after a full day of clinic. Concert today and tomorrow, and I love the pieces we are doing. Here: Rainshadow Chorale.

all sounds become music

I am in RainShadow Chorale. My father was one of the people who started it in 1997.  I moved to Port Townsend in 2000, because my mother had cancer. She died in May of 2000. My father died in 2013. I had the joy of singing with him in this group for 13 years.

Our concert is weekend after next and I really love this one. We are doing a wild mix of pieces and moods with the theme from a Walt Whitman poem. In this time of so many people being afraid and angry and stirred up, going to chorus is healing. All of these people, unpaid, coming together to create these two concerts of beauty and unity and joy. A gift to each other and a gift to the community.

Ticket information on the website.

Stages of Grief: anger

I am thinking of the songs that comfort me in grief.

And thinking about the stages of grief. Five, right? Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Grief and Acceptance. My sister said, “They left out Revenge and Acting Out. ” She died of cancer in 2012 at age 49. Six days after her birthday and the day after mine.

Anger songs for grief. But denial is first, right? Not necessarily. These are not stages you move through in a certain order. This is more like a spiral, where you go from one to the next and back to the start, from day to day or even hour to hour.

I’ve already written about My Name is Samuel Hall. That is an angry song, unrepentant, that my sister wanted the last time that I visited her. I knew that she was furious about dying and leaving her husband and daughter. And me and her friends.

My mother sang:

“Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms. Big fat slimy ones, little tiny wiggly ones, see them wiggle and squirm. Bite their heads off, suck their guts out, throw the skins away. I don’t see how anyone can live on three meals of worms a day… without dessert….”

She also taught us this:

“I don’t want to play in your back yard
I don’t like you any more
You’ll be sorry when you see me
Sliding down my cellar door”

My parents had songs for every mood I can imagine. There were moods they would not speak about but they sang them.

My favorite angry groups are The Devil Makes Three, Hank Williams III, The Offspring, and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Sweet Honey in the Rock? Yes. They sing about death a lot. This song is not about death: it’s about a “bad” woman, wanted dead or alive. But listen to the song: they are singing about a real event and a woman who fought back against a rape. On the thirty year album of Sweet Honey in the Rock, the group says that their first “hit” was this song, played by news stations. “It was a hint that we were not going to be top 40.” The song is Joanne Little.

So here are three songs by the others:

The Offspring: Why don’t you get a job?

The Devil Makes Three: All Hail

Hank Williams III: My Drinking Problem

And how do families show anger? They fight. They fight with each other. They fight about how someone should die, what should be done about mom, whether dad can live alone any more, about the right way to grieve. They fight about small things or big things and they even sue each other. Before you wade into the fray, step back. Remember, families grieving are always a little bit insane, very stressed and it’s all grief.

Hank Williams III: Country heroes

Blessings on the people I know in hospice right now and on their families and loved ones. Third one today. Sending love.

 

 

 

More Dawn

Here is one of the Voiceworks Classes with Dawn Pemberton. My biggest problem is I want to go to all five or six classes that are running simultaneously and then there are people playing music in the halls, on the porch, singing in the practice rooms!

And we’re on our feet practicing singing soul.

DSCN3532

I shall leave you

My poems start with a problem, an idea, a worry. I never know where it will go when I start. This poem started with wanting to leave in a positive way and started with the title. So how could I leave but leave with kindness? And what would I leave?

So it is a song. And should include sign language, I think….

I shall leave you

I shall leave you with a song
I shall leave you with music
I shall leave you with a picture
I shall leave you with voice upraised

I leave you with a song
I leave you with music
I leave you with a picture
I leave you with voice upraised

I leave you a song
I leave you music
I leave you a picture
I leave you voice upraised

I leave a song
I leave music
I leave a picture
I leave voice upraised

leave a song
leave music
leave a picture
leave a voice upraised

a song
music
a picture
a voice upraised

song
music
picture
voice

song

Paper of pins

For the daily prompt: Treasure.

This is another song to raise girls. My sister and I loved the double twist at the end. This is a courting song, to be sung by at least two voices. At music parties, my parents would sing it to each other. We would join in joyfully.

First voice:
I’ll give to you a paper of pins
and that’s the way our love begins
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

Second:
I’ll not accept your paper of pins
if that’s the way your love begins
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you a dress of red
all sewn round with golden thread
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept your dress of red
all sewn round with golden thread
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you a coach and four
so you can ride from door to door
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept your coach and four
so I can ride from door to door
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you the keys to my heart
so we can love and never part
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept the keys to your heart
so we can love and never part
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you the keys to my chest
so you can have money at your request
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I will accept the keys to your chest
so I can have money at my request
And I will marry you oh you
and I will marry you

I love coffee and you love tea
you love my money you don’t love me
And I won’t marry you oh you
And I won’t marry you

I’ll take my tea and sit in the shade
I think I’d rather be an old maid
And I won’t marry you oh you
And I won’t marry you

We were interested in the escalation of the offer and that in the end, the woman was quite clear: she did not love him and was not for sale.

There are multiple versions on YouTube with different words. I like the one by Rose Lee and Joe Maphis.

The photograph is of a sewing kit. It belonged to Margaret White, my maternal grandmother’s oldest sister. It says: J. A Henckel, Twinworks, Germany. The paper is a paper of needles, needles of different sizes. I liked small things, so my mother let me have this kit. I have used it since I was a child. Some of the pieces were missing from the start, but I suspect that those that remain are ivory. My grandmother was born in 1899, so this kit would be from the early 1900s. I carefully kept all of the needles in their paper packets.