you know how people say, "i'd give my right arm if i could only ... " well, i wouldn't give my right arm for anything. or my left. or either of my legs. but, i was thinking the other day, man, i'd totally sacrifice a toe if i could sing.
i was born with ten fingers and ten toes. it's hard to remember to be thankful for that, until you're writing about it. so in this moment i'm aware i should consider myself a lucky girl. my upper digits have bequeathed to me more abilities than i can list, like the ability to hold my first rattle; pick my nose; clap my hands; push my big brother when we'd play football in the living room and mom would yell at us to stop; write my name with my sparkle marker on my pencil box in the classroom of the second-grade teacher with the long-ish, sandy-blonde hair that was straight as point A to point B; do flip flops across the mat at phil hickman's gym, the original, tiny one in the neighborhood where i grew up; grasp the steering wheel of the red pontiac sunbird i drove at 17; turn the key of my first apartment in morgantown in 1994; strap on my roller blades so i could glide to work in south beach, miami; push the subway token into the slot on my way to work on gansevoort street in new york city; type my 30-page senior thesis for my BA in english; spoon frothy milk over two ounces of espresso at blue moose cafe; stroke the snout of my kaiser, then my phaedra, then my joker; hold a can of bud light or a mug of coffee on numerous patios and porches in memphis; pack and carry moving boxes 14 times between the ages of 18 and 35; stroke my baby boy's face for the first time; create blogs that help me organize my cluttered thought-closet.
to my lower digits i am grateful for things like balance and the ability to not look freakish in flip flops.
one of the above lists is clearly much longer than the other. that's what brought me to the conclusion that i could get by without a toe, if only i could sing. my mom can sing. my brother, too. dad sings in church, but he acknowledges the limitations of his skill. if i could sing, i'd feel like i was 50 feet tall and made of thunder and lightning. i know this because when i'm singing in my car, i'm transported to a place of being able to tear a teeny, tiny corner off the page of how the real thing would feel.
when i'm driving, my son gets an education. we listen to jeff buckley, john prine, steve earle, ryan adams, lucero, the replacements, the decemberists, sam and dave, avail, the pogues, george jones, and whatever else i can salvage from my shamefully battered cd collection or whatever is playing on my various pandora stations. i don't own an ipod. neither does keith richards. <—i read that in an article recently. i feel vindicated.
nowadays, i catch zion in the backseat "ahhh uhhhh ohhhh"ing along with the music. it won't be long before we're the best duo that ever traveled the streets of clarksburg. i hope when my son is older he'll play his favorite songs and feel the music from the inside all the way out, the way i do—not because i want him to be a reflection of me but because that feeling signifies a symbiotic relationship between one's self and the maker of the music. a harmonious connection between strangers. that's a rare thing. animals get it. humans, we're too complicated.
... and that's why we make music. why we design clothing and jewelry. why we write poems and fiction and nonfiction and creative nonfiction. why we paint canvases and make sculptures of wood or steel or ice. why we make films and take photographs.
ants don't make ant hills because they're angsty. birds don't make nests because someone broke their heart. they're compelled to do it by virtue of being what they are. in that sense, we complicated humans can relate.