When I was a little girl, my grandmother Lidia would sing to me and my brother all the time--and I mean ALL the time. She was a Hungarian lady with a Transylvanian ancestry and she knew over 1000 old ethnic Hungarian songs. Singing to us was her way of storytelling and she took great pride in being familiar with all the “olden songs” her blind mother passed on to her. We believe that grandma had perfect pitch--even though she had no formal music training. You could pretty much tune an instrument to her voice and she sang everything either in d-minor or D-Major. If you are a musician yourself, you may appreciate this rare skill.
We all experienced first-hand how music brings families closer together. My Mom’s side of the family was very close. We lived in the same neighborhood, and would see all our aunts, uncles and cousins almost daily. Most of us took music lessons at one point of another and played an instrument or sang. We used to have family rehearsals and would go caroling together over Christmas. Grandma was at our house all the time and sometimes it was hard to focus on our “kid stuff” when she was singing. We would often ask her: “Can you please just stop for a little while?” and she would get upset with us. It was also not so cool to have your friends over and have grandma be the center of attention. She really enjoyed that, by the way. :-)
My brother and I did not fully appreciate Grandma Lidia’s talent until she was in her 70’s and a couple of university professors asked to meet with her, record her songs and catalogue them before all that cultural treasure is forgotten. We were shocked to discover that what we’ve been hearing daily is actually something so unique and valuable, but then again, it’s only human to sometimes take people for granted.
My grandma’s passion for music influenced our entire family and I’m so very grateful to her. I have some wonderful memories of making music with my uncle, and I still tear up when I watch videos of his amazing clarinet performances. There are also these warm memories of me and my Mom singing in harmony, as well as Mom singing with her siblings. Sometimes, we did that on stage and sometimes while baking fresh rolls together. I think about those happy times often and with great fondness.
Now, my family is scattered all over the world and my uncle and grandma are long gone. We miss them terribly and I often wish I could hear grandma’s songs in the kitchen. However, my aunt and cousins still call me from Australia, Sweden, Hungary or Serbia and sing “Silent Night” in harmony on Christmas Eve. We all cry and wish we could be together. Music is one of the important links we share and its power to bring back memories is just incredible. So, if one of your family members is always singing or playing, please make sure to pause and appreciate them every day. Ask them to keep singing and try to remember every moment. :-)