Monday, September 5, 2011

If I can't dance....

If we leave Little Bug alone with the music playing, he dances.

He’s always liked to listen to music, and recently he’s started lifting up his arms and moving his whole body in response to us. But this dancing alone thing, not so much social as personal, is new and fascinating.

We discovered it when we left him in his room and put up the gate, and Jennifer was checking on him every couple of minutes. She was peeking in, and then waved me over silently but urgently, smiling broadly. She pointed, and there he was, lifting his feet and pumping his arms. We stayed and spied, trying not to laugh out loud and disrupt him. His face was full of joy.

We took him to a concert the other night, local bands in a park doing covers. He kept us laughing from Bohemian Rhapsody to Purple Rain to Heartbreak Hotel, throwing himself into a whirlwind of turning and shaking his head back and forth and shifting really fast from one foot to another. Always his hands were high in the air. Sometimes he sang when they were finished, la la la la, just so the music wouldn’t stop. He’s still so little he would lose his footing in the sharp slope of the amphitheater, but he never stopped smiling.

He’s as sensuous as a cat, and will arch his neck if you stroke it. Rhythms and music seem to be the same sort of thing, something he feels in his body that make him move.

It’s tempting to think of his enjoyment of music as something about the species, since he’s so young and seems to have always had it. But I think that’s wrong; he’s steeped in an environment full of us and others. “Isn’t it amazing,” said Jennifer tongue-in-cheek, “he has the exact same interests we do!” He listens to the same music we and the people we know do; he has dance moves he’s seen. But certainly there is something about music and dancing that is close to the bone of how humans build a world; having such a rich and very long tradition of loving it as we do.

But it’s rewarding to watch him interact with texts and music, especially because I teach college students to do something like that, at least the texts part. When something bad happens to Little Bug—he tumbles and does a face-plant—he acts it out again and again, telling us the story over and over until he feels better, making it narrative, assimilating what happened and moving on. He uses bedtime stories to build ways to use words and thoughts. In What’s Wrong Little Pookie?, Mommy asks Pookie if he needs a drink. Pookie didn’t, but Little Bug did the other night; he picked his head up when he heard it and started urgently signing “more.”

We make meaning in our world through stories and music. I knew that about adults, and how critical that is. Someone in my new office has posted the words women sang in the Lawrence “bread and roses” strike in 1912: “hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread but give us roses.” At almost-13 months, Little Bug has found already that music fills his heart. Maybe it’s nurturing that contagious joy that is so much a part of him.