Last night, as I was closing up the house after the third round of inviting the world to look in my refrigerator, I heard one of my favorite male singers.
He was singing his heart out, loudly, as he is wont to do, for the girl of his dreams, and I listened intently as his voice moved up and down the scale, from low to impossibly high, as he finished one song and moved on to the next.
It seems a bit early in the year for our mockingbird to start his love songs, but we had a warm weekend--nearly 80F on Saturday--so perhaps the nice weather spurred him on to start serenading us at midnight. Some of our neighbors object strenuously to the sound of his song in the middle of the night, but I find it lovely and oddly soothing.
I've had trouble sleeping all my life, and when I was in junior high, I finally gave up trying to sleep on weekend nights, which drove my parents crazy. Of course, that was also how I found The Midnight Special and Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, which I watched with avid interest--remember, I was the kid who grew up in a place where the radio stations only played the top 20 of the Top 40, and I was passionate about music, so I watched and learned what else was out there. Around the same time, I discovered what happened with radio waves at night, and when the atmospherics were right, I could find radio stations hundreds of miles away in Mexico and Oklahoma City. I would sit for hours with my ear pressed against the speaker grille of the behemoth stereo (vacuum tubes, I kid you not), slowly turning the dial, looking for communication from anywhere outside the far unlight unknown, the vast desert in which I lived.
On nights when the atmospherics weren't cooperating, and I'd finished attending to the tiny orchid plants that my chess-playing cousin F. had brought me, I'd sit, still wakeful at 2 a.m., by the dining room window, listening to the mockingbird in the large, spreading mesquite tree in the backyard. He would trill and sing, playing the scales with his voice. "I am beautiful," he told the world with complete confidence,"you will love me, and we will have pretty children. I build sturdy nests, and I'll provide for you."
Then, I swear, he'd get bored, and he'd start goofing around, mimicking cats and other birds for a bit. After a little, he'd get serious again, and start up his love songs anew. Although I enjoyed my solitude on those nights--spending time alone doesn't daunt me--there was something comforting in the knowledge that there was a friendly creature yards away, also wakeful, singing happily while the rest of the world slept. A kindred spirit, really.
I probably could have learned something more meaningful from that bird's confident, happy song if I'd had a mind to pay better attention. Or if I hadn't been 13 and lost in the throes of the sort of painful world-class crush that teens seem prone to. MA was a year older than I, the most beautiful boy, and just the type of guy to which I will probably be attracted all my life: tall and slender, hazel-eyed and dark-haired. But what I felt for him frightened me and struck me dumb.
To be fair, at 13, I was only beginning to learn my own song, figuring out who I was, what I had to offer the world, where I was going. Through the years, I've added words and melody and rhythm, learning what to give up, what to fight for, where I'm willing to compromise. Sometimes, I dump the serious song, and start goofing off. The mockingbird figured out that a little levity at 2 am isn't a bad thing, and who am I to argue? I usually know when it's time to get serious again, even when I'm faced with days when I don't want to sing, and would rather hide under my bed. I suspect that I'll never be as happy and confident as that mockingbird, and there are still men who strike me dumb, but I've come to realize that I like my song. Most days I do ok when I perform it.
And when I sing at midnight, I'll try to keep it down.
Go listen to some good music: "Sing, Sing, Sing" from the album Sing, Sing, Sing by Bennie Goodman and his orchestra.