Young at Heart

A grab bag of some random thoughts…

After I graduated from college, my mother gave me a copy of Robert Fulghum’s book titled Uh Oh. In truth, without cracking it open, I decided it was silly, overly simplistic and a better choice for anyone else but me. I finally did read it (a sure sign that I had run out of books) and one particular section stuck with me…

Ask a kindergarten class, “How many of you can draw?” and all hands shoot up. Yes, of course we can draw—all of us. What can you draw? Anything! How about a dog eating a fire truck in a jungle? Sure! How big you want it?

How many of you can sing? All hands. Of course we sing! What can you sing? Anything! What if you don’t know the words? No problem, we make them up. Let’s sing! Now? Why not!

How many of you dance? Unanimous again. What kind of music do you like to dance to? Any kind! Let’s dance! Now? Sure, why not?

Do you like to act in plays? Yes! Do you play musical instruments? Yes! Do you write poetry? Yes! Can you read and write and count? Yes! We’re learning that stuff now.

Their answer is Yes! Over and over again, Yes! The children are confident in spirit, infinite in resources, and eager to learn. Everything is still possible.

Try those same questions on a college audience. A small percentage of the students will raise their hands when asked if they draw or dance or sing or paint or act or play an instrument. Not infrequently, those who do raise their hands will want to qualify their response with their limitations: “I only play piano, I only draw horses, I only dance to rock and roll, I only sing in the shower.”

When asked why the limitations, college students answer they do not have talent, are not majoring in the subject, or have not done any of these things since about third grade, or worse, that they are embarrassed for others to see them sing or dance or act. You can imagine the response to the same questions asked of an older audience. The answer: No, none of the above.

What went wrong between kindergarten and college?

What happened to YES! of course I can?

Excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book Uh Oh entitled “Yes, I Can!”

Of all things, it reminds me of my mother and singing in the car or around the house – we’d play a game where you had to start with the letter A, sing a song that began with that letter and work your way through the alphabet, – it also reminds me of a time when my Mom, aunt, cousin and I were watching Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” and leapt up to do a not so amazing interpretation of Ann-Margret’s dance to “C’mon Everybody” (I just listened to a sample and am finding it hard not to dance). And it makes me a little sad, because at some point I decided I shouldn’t sing, I shouldn’t dance, and I shouldn’t play. Of course, society (that’s what I’ll call them to play fair), helps – who hasn’t said, “you know why they sing that song? So you don’t have to!” which is really more about ribbing in most cases, but it ends up being limiting, because eventually you just stop singing, and dancing, and drawing unless you’re completely alone. Then when people ask “how does that song go” you shrug, “I don’t know” just to avoid singing it.

… and this brings me to the documentary that is coming to Austin called “Young at Heart” – these people who still sing and dance and find joy by singing pop songs around the world. So, today I’ll leave you with a little bit of them:

NPR Audio Clip – May, 2000

Movie Website

And of course, a video that made me smile – The Young at Heart Choir singing The Ramones “I wanna be sedated”.

… don’t stop singing, dancing, drawing, writing or simply creating. You know why they sing that song? So you can sing along, too. You know who sings that song? Must be you, since you’re singing it.

4 thoughts on “Young at Heart

  1. Charla says:

    For me its the memory of you, Beth, and your Dad sitting on the front porch singing “The House of the Rising Sun”. Your voice, soprano sweet, innocent…Dad’s, deep and sure. Dad doesn’t sing much anymore.

  2. Beth says:

    When I think of Dad singing, it’s always in a tenor that’s pushing a baritone of “Old Man River” or us in the car singing “I don’t want a pickle, just wanna ride my motorcycle…” (He also taught me how to yodel, which I’ll do on request, but we can’t be in a confined space.)

  3. Beth says:

    Lori,If you get a chance, watch all the video clips on YouTube from this group. I just love the “Staying Alive” medley and let me say that the “Fix You” got to me – in that same way that Johnny Cash’s version “Hurt” got to me – and watching the last the Weavers as they paid tribute to one of their members passing away – I believe he died during the filming (I saw it at the Paramount, but I think KLRU may have shown it).

  4. Lori says:

    You are a great writer, Beth. Something about this post made me laugh and cry at the same time. I have heard about this film that will probably come to OKC never, so I will add it to my NetFlix.

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