My 9-year-old daughter moves in song, thinks in song, and dreams in song. She goes into her room in the dark of almost every evening and pulls her purple guitar down off the wall to croon like a folk singer or a Nasvhille diva or a pop star with a very old soul. I want to write about how proud I am of her, her voice, and her musical acuity. People come over for dinner and she pulls out her guitar and rattles off a brand new song so striking and deep that I want to video her just to watch the song again, so I can see if what I’m seeing is what I think I’m seeing. And it is. Her small fingers chipped with pink nail polish maneuver the frets effortlessly. She closes her eyes, hops from B to G to E-minor, leaning back and forth with the rhythm and belting out new lyrics like, “Be your own kind of beautiful.”
It’s so easy to bask in that light. But I also worry every time she sings because she has a six-year-old sister who puts on a lime green Tinkerbell dress so she’ll stand out a little bit while living in the shadow of all that light. We want her to shine too so we ask her to do a little show for us and she dances behind her big sister, twirling, trying so hard to impress.
I want to scoop her up and protect her from all this– all this unintentional menace. It’s exactly that–an unintentional menace.
Last weekend when my husband’s college friends came over for pizza and beer, we all sat around the table, asking for the usual show. My 9-year-old asked her little sister to sing with her, but baby sister demurred even though she knew the song, had heard it hundreds of times. She looked down at her toes, nervously pushed her hair behind her ears over and over again. Then her big sister began playing the song and after a few times saying, “No, I don’t want to,” she reluctantly joined in.
My daughters stood side-by-side and sang together. Our little one was hard to hear most of the time. She wiggled her toes and watched them, twisting her middle and blushing. But one moment came when she closed her eyes and sang right along with her sister and they were, for one incredible note, in perfect harmony.
My older daughter, bless her heart, took a step back while her younger sister sang, clearly feeling the music. And when my little girl opened her eyes, I wanted to tell her, “You’re beautiful. You’re amazing. And you don’t ever have to do that again if you don’t want to. Want to be an astronomer? Want to be a garbage collector? A history teacher? I don’t care what you do. Just god bless your soul for surviving that moment–for walking through the darkness of your sister’s shadow and making harmony.”