My neighbors sing Karaoke, loudly and out of tune. You don’t need a degree in music to tell that they are bad singers but having one lends to a special kind of pain reserved only for former voice teachers. I want to run over there sometimes and yell, “Give me that microphone!” or, “You, you’re in tune and your voice is quite pretty. You, you have very poor listening skills and don’t seem to even be aware that you don’t blend with any of the notes, or the other person you’re singing with. Stop, slow down, listen, be careful in how you form those sounds and someday you may sound good.” I could pull out my teaching credential in the hopes that she would listen to me. But I won’t, and I won’t call management to complain, and I won’t do anything but smile and say, “You’re singing again.” Because it seems to me singing together, however badly, is a much better way to pass an evening with family than watching TV. I am filled with nostalgia for the days of singing at my grandparent’s with my very musical family.
There is a little boy named CJ who lives with the would be musicians. It’s a big Filipino family in that little apartment, his uncle and aunt and mom and one or maybe two babies. He looks sometimes as though he’s lost in the shuffle. The first day he was here, he found his way into my house to play almost instantly and my husband asked him some innocent questions about his dad. “My dad doesn’t live with us because he doesn’t work and has no money.”
The GH responded with characteristic compassion and said, “You must miss him huh? I know I would miss my dad.”
CJ gave him a half nod and a brave chin tuck in response at which point I think the GH adopted him in his heart. He comes here often, showing up without notice, and disappearing just as quickly. He performs bigger than life Broadway style tap dances for the Baby whenever he sees her looking his way. He brings out his brand new toys to show to the other boys, and then slinks away when they start playing with the toys instead of him, his ready smile replaced by a carefully guarded look that hides whatever hurt or disappointment he is feeling.
Two nights ago I volunteered to bring him swimming with us. We always go and he always watches wistfully as we walk away. I figure it must be hard being the only kid surrounded by busy grown ups and babies so I invited him along. He waited for an hour, nearly bursting with excitement. He brought with him two masks, one to share with the Boy and one for himself. He was easy to watch and fun to have with us.
The next night the Boy asked if we could invite his friend over for dinner and I agreed. As I got dinner ready the boys played together with CJ outside, all of them running in and out over and over again. When we sat down to dinner CJ kept hopefully popping his head in around the perpetually open front door, laughing and smiling and being silly for those sitting down for dinner. I didn’t send him away, but I found myself hoping that he would get the point soon and go home so that we could eat in peace. He eventually did.
Later that night as I was cleaning up I saw the one piece of leftover fish sitting there on the plate, uneaten, and not likely to keep. Remorse kicked me in the stomach as I realized that it should have been CJ’s. Opportunity was banging on my door every time he popped his bright face in through it, and I had slammed it shut. I have it in my power to help a child feel less lonely. It wouldn’t be all that hard for me to include one more in the crazy mix of kids that we have here, especially such a quiet and unassuming one. But what it might mean to him…I resolved right there that the next time he pokes his head through our door I’ll be inviting him in.