Hitting the hot notes

Emily Bialkowski
Argus Managing Editor

I’m not sure at what point in my life it became uncool to belt out patriotic songs like “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “This Land is Your Land,” but I am happy it is suddenly in style in our house again.

My first recollection of actually singing begins in second grade in the church children’s choir. I remember my teacher, Mr. Newman, in great detail. He was new to the church, wore thick glasses, had tight curly, gray hair and made his eyes real wide and positioned himself closer to you when he wanted to emphasize a note while teaching.

He was the first person to introduce to me the concept of having a part in music; you know, soprano, alto, tenor, bass.

I loved being in the church children’s choir because – finally – I had something other to do than be bored at church. I know it sounds terrible, but it’s the truth. At that age church did not hold spiritual significance to me. I distinctly remember being told that, “Jesus died on a cross for you; the least you can do it sit still and be quiet for an hour.”

But now, finally, I had purpose in church. I was going to sing and think about singing when I wasn’t.

I kept right on singing through elementary school, middle school, high school and even in college.

I remember my brothers yelling, “Just stop singing,” but my mom knew better than to suppress my muse and smiled when they yelled.

After college I had real life things to worry about like rent and groceries. I stopped singing, and like any other muscle that isn’t exercised my vocal chords have become quite inadequate in terms of producing a pretty sound.

But now a magic little thing is happening in my world again. Music has been brought back into our house by our six-year-old.

It was an early fall night. Sophie was in the bathtub and started humming something familiar while I washed the day’s make-up off my face. It grew louder, and I finished toweling my face dry.

“You’re a grand old flag,” came bursting out of the bathtub with the excitement of a firecracker.

I listened at first, my internal cup of joy filling with each new note. She sang louder and without the tendency we adults have to hold back our vocalizations.

She stumbled on some words and then some more, and then I chimed in to help her find her way.

She looked at me in astonishment and said, “You know that song?”

Yes. It was a good night.

Ironically, as I’ve tried to correct Sophie on some of the lyrics she’s missing, I’ve found my own decades old misunderstanding of the song.

To Sophie, it’s a grand old flag, a hot flying flag, instead of a high flying flag. To me, it will forever in peace lay, not wave, which after some thought, I realized makes no sense. We wouldn’t want the American flag laying; we want it waving.

What was I thinking?


You can contact Emily Bialkowski at [email protected]