Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kids Singing Songs

"I LOVE riding the bus!" Ethan announced the other day.

"Really?" I asked, relieved. This was news to me, as I'd thought the bus ride was a necessary evil making his already long day longer.

"What's your favorite thing about riding the bus?" I asked him. No big surprise: he likes seeing the stop sign come out, looking to see if they're going to cross railroad tracks, and noticing the way some of the school buses in the line have round lights, but a few have square ones. I asked if he talked to any kids, and I got a matter-of-fact, "Noooo. I'm too busy watching." As in watching the stop sign go in and out.

But there's something else. I learned this the second day of school, when he came in the house singing something under his breath. "What's that?" I asked him.

"They were singing it on the back of the bus." He suddenly squirmed nervously. "There's a part that you're not going to like, I just know it. It has potty words."

Take that, those who think people on the spectrum can't see from another person's point of view.

Now I was definitely intrigued. "How does it go?" I asked. He murmured something to the effect of

I don't wanna go to Mexico no more, more, more
There's a big fat policeman standing at the door
If you open the door, he will pee on the floor
I don't wanna go to Mexico no more, more, more
I think I understood. "Were the kids on the bus singing this and clapping their hands against each other?" I asked him. "Yeah," he nodded. "They have another one...Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack-"
"-All dressed in black, black, black," I interjected, and he looked up in surprise. "Yeah, I know that one. We used to sing it when I was a kid."
I could see us on the playground, slapping hands at recess. These are the songs of childhood, and I've always wondered exactly how they originated; how they spread; how much they differ from region to region and from generation to generation. Would you believe I once wanted to write a term paper on the topic? Deep thinking, I know.
Ethan really, really loves the songs on the bus. He doesn't take part. No way; he's got to watch that stop sign. But he's listening and committing them to memory. Someday, they'll be the soundtrack of his growing up.
"Do you know this one?" he asked, and I didn't, but Anna did:
Crunchy ice
Sing it once
Sing it twice
Crunchy ice
Sing it once
Sing it twice
Then freeze!

What is it about kindergarten to oh, 4th or 5th graders, particularly girls, (Anna's starting to grow out of such things) that makes them want to sing songs and slap hands?
I asked them both about Miss Susie, who had a baby and named him Tiny Tim, and put him in the bathtub, to see if he could swim, but they didn't know that one.
"They do another one about bubble gum," Ethan piped up.
Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish
How many pieces do you wish?
...And in an instant I was back in Nonna's yard early on a summer evening, gathered with the neighborhood kids trying to determine who would be "it" first for hide and seek. Everyone had their fists out, and when it landed on you, you tried to quickly calculate what number would bring it around back to you (1, 2, 3, 4 and you shall not be it!), and if you took too long, someone would accuse you of cheating, and then everyone would be arguing and yelling at each other. But finally we'd work it out and we'd all go running and as the sun sank we'd crouch in our places, hearts beating, praying not to be found.

It's been two weeks, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still nervous about what Ethan might pick up on the bus (I can only remember bigger kids when I was young, screaming Twister Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" at the top of their lungs but adding the "sh" onto the word "It"). I'd still love if he'd talk to someone once in a while rather than gazing at signs and lights.

Yet, he may not be slapping hands and singing, but he's listening. He's learning something inconsequential but sweet, something that most kids learn. Maybe, he's making a memory. 

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