Caw! Caw! Caw!
At the narrow edge of the Guatemalan rug, the thin, curly-haired, red-headed, previously demure woman opens and closes her hands at us, cawing, open-mouthed and open-palmed, we will soon discover, like a crow.
Prior to her birdlike outburst she had welcomed us, business-like, as we entered the dance studio one by one with our kids in tow. “You must be Georgia,” she says to my daughter in her car seat, “which makes you Tricia,” offering me a name tag with just Georgia’s name typed across it. It dawns on me that she’s deduced who we are because Georgia has Down syndrome. I don’t do anything with that information really, but I tuck it in my pocket.
Cawing now for what seems like an uncomfortable number of minutes, our leader takes out a pitch pipe, and for a moment I think we might have bitten off more than we can chew—or sing, rather. When she finally begins singing, the rest of us, mostly moms, but a couple token fathers with our children in our laps or between our knees, or, in the case of siblings, both between knees and hanging off shoulders, shyly hum along as we piece out the song. We do our part for the call and answer bits. Rock our hips and shoulders. Bang on the floors, clap our hands. Help our kids to clap theirs. Dutiful.
We generally stick to the age-old themes: moo-cows and butterflies, a couple numbers about the Earth and trees, rocket ships and fire engines. At various points we stand and then we sit again. We wave colorful scarves above our heads and twirl them low down at our feet. Our singing corresponds with the motions. We sing “high high high as we touch the sky and low low low as we touch our toes.”
For a song about choo-choo trains, the kids play various instruments, our intrepid, pitch-perfect, leader collecting “All mouthy ones” in a separate basket when we are done. It takes me a moment to realize she means the ones the babies have been gumming. All of ours go in the gummy basket.
There are approximately 13 children and, thanks to the “Hello Song”, and, of course the name tags, I know all their names. I am terrible with names. I do not know a single one of the parent’s names. Despite their children pawing Georgia’s head. Despite my bopping around with a big goofy grin on my face for their pleasure.
We parents hardly even make eye contact with one another while the class is in session. We sing, in varying degrees of enthusiasm and pitch, and kiss the tops of our kids’ heads. We dance in circles to the left and circles to the right. We pick up each other's children when they fall and get their scarves down for them when they get caught on errant windowsills. Some of us even hold hands after the lullaby song, at the insistence of some of the older children while we are singing our goodbye song.
It is not until the final strains, “Goodbye everybody, hope to see you again…” are gobbled up by the acoustics of the dance studio and we are all standing, adjusting jackets, and buckling car seats, preparing bottles, perhaps goaded by the otherwise silent space we are occupying near the coat rack that the small talk pitter patters on cautious feet.
“You live near the general store? I actually live upstairs. She’s 9-months. We just moved here this spring. Thank you. She looks like her father. And how old is he? He’s adorable. She really seems to enjoy the music…”
And so on—
When just as quickly as it’s started we are jacketed and buckled and bottled. Heading out to our cars. Saying our “See you next weeks”. A procession of Subarus—this is Vermont--some of us follow one another home to our same neighborhood. Quiet. Pitch perfect. Or not. Until next week. Another attempt. At music together