My husband asked me about my blogger name the other day.
Why, he asked. Why songbird? He said people will think I’m a musician of some kind.
Music has always been a big part of my life.
When I was growing up, every morning when I’d wake up, I would find my mom had already been up for hours, and the radio would already be on.
And it would stay on all day long.
Big band, jazz, swing, blues, oldies, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s– she listened to pretty much everything.
My dad had so many records I couldn’t count them all. Some of it my mom liked, some she didn’t.
Suffice it to say, I had a lot of music constantly moving through my head back then.
I was an impressionable, curious little sponge with a pulse. And my mom was always singing under her breath with the radio– Jim Croce, Tom T. Hall, Gordon Lightfoot (God I love his voice). Singing came as natural as breathing then. Out of everything it could’ve been– my induction into the wide world of music– it was “you are my sunshine” that ended up being the first thing I sang, and of course others naturally followed.
Nerd that I am, growing up with two brothers– one younger, one older– I’m pretty sure there’s a copy of a home movie out there somewhere with little impressionable sponge-like me doing the typical little-kid “look at me” stomp dance, singing the Thundercats theme song at the top of my lungs.
Yeah, you heard me. And I knew every word by heart.
The older I got, the more I started branching out and getting into music on my own. Of course, growing up with the music I did, I still find myself coming back to it, listening to the songs I grew up with the same way I still like to go back to old movies and old books I read when I was younger, to remember what I was going through when I first read it, and to feel what I felt back then, when I first picked them up.
I love anything with a good rhythm, anything with a good beat you can dance to. My mom and I used to dance in the aisles in stores, and when people laughed or shook their heads, we’d just laugh and shrug them off.
Who am I kidding? I went to visit her up north a few years back, and when one of “our songs” came on the radio, we danced like we did all those years ago. Take that, Big Lots.
I dance in my car. Sometimes I sing backup, and funnily enough? Now that they’re getting older and discovering music, my stepsons join in. It’s great.
When I was in elementary school, my class took a field trip to see some random symphony play, and I remember that being the first time I ever actually saw people play on real instruments in person.
I decided sometime after that, that I wanted to learn how to play piano. But not wanting to bug my parents with the idea of lessons, I signed up for choir in school, figuring it would be a good way to learn how to read music.
From that first year, I was hooked on it. I learned how to read music, how to recognize the rhythm and how to feel it more definitively. And I loved it.
And when my parents bought me a keyboard, I labeled my keys with masking tape and a sharpie, and I taught myself a few simple songs. Nothing incredible, but enough to make me smile. Every now and again, I still find myself going back to those songs. A few years ago, I taught our youngest how to play a couple. Now he’s talking about wanting to play piano, though his love is the drums.
It might’ve kind of been my fault, or his dad’s. My husband was a drummer in high school, in band. He still has an old snare in the garage, but he swears he’s “moved past it” and that he “Doesn’t miss it.”
And yet, last October, when we were at Six Flags Fright Fest, watching the live band, I could see his foot tapping to the rhythm, the way his eyes were glued to the drummer, and to the drums themselves.
As a writer I’ve always found inspiration everywhere, and music was always one of my constants.
To this day, I’ll come across random songs and find myself running for a notebook, driven by the picture or the story or the scene the music put into my head.
I’ve been known to listen to the same song on repeat over and over ad nauseum (On my headphones to protect my family’s sanity), just to keep the idea fresh in my mind.
Why songbird, he asked me. I was in seventh grade when I first took the name, the first email address I ever had, and my mom still gets a kick out of the fact that I came home from school telling her about the “cool new band Fleetwood Mac”, at which point she proceeded to cross to the record cabinet and pull out all her old Fleetwood Mac records and lay them out on the kitchen table.
In my defense, I thought their music kicked ass, and looking over her records, I realized I’d heard them all a hundred times before, if not more. But with all the music and all the albums and all the bands I’d grown up listening to, I couldn’t remember all the names of each and every one of them.
Growing up with a name like Jennifer, knowing as many of them as I did growing up, I remember 7th grade being the first time I had a name that was just mine, something that was just mine, the way my writing always has been.
So when I sat down this month to start my blog, to try and get my writing out there and to give it an honest shot, and I found myself trying to figure out what name I’d use, it seemed only fitting to use songbird. Why not? I’m still the same curious, impressionable and open-minded sponge, a little older now, but still here. I still love music now as I always have. My collection is still just as eclectic, and just as rhythm and inspiration driven.
I don’t follow any specific bands, necessarily, but I do tend to revisit specific ones from time to time. At the end of the day, I go where the inspiration is, same as I always have.
Why songbird, he asked me. I had to smile at the question.
“Because it’s who I am,” I told him.