When I was about four years old, I used to love to sing. I have distinct memories of singing “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston in my grandmother’s kitchen. On field trips, as I got older, I would sing hair band songs to myself to help pass the time. It really didn’t matter what the song was, whether it was a sitcom theme song or Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” or the Arabic song I heard at the wedding I went to the weekend before, I would sing it… all—day—long…
But what I remember most was how much my mom would put up with. No matter how loud or how long or how off tune I sometimes I got, my mother never told me to shut up. And because of this, I became a fierce little four-year-old who thought it was everyone’s obligation to sit down and watch me sing. I loved a faithful audience. And so many afternoons, after my mother would pour her afternoon cup of coffee, I would ask her to sit down at the kitchen table and watch me perform. And she would. I would then proceed to grab the biggest spoon I could find in the kitchen drawer and prepare myself for a big crowd pleaser. My poor mother. I was quite ballsy, so I asked my mom to introduce me, and when she did, to make sure that she introduced the fact that I would be singing with a microphone; hence, the spoon. My mom would then announce, “Introducing Leen Jaber singing with a microphone!!!”
Man, I loved the way that felt. I would then saunter into the middle of the kitchen and bring that spoon up to my lips and just start belting it out. I specifically remember singing “Borderline” by Madonna on one occasion. But most of the time I remember just making my own songs, the kind that went on for at least 10 minutes that had no ending in sight. At some point, halfway through my stellar show, my mother would turn to the empty chair next to her and say, “Isn’t she wonderful?!?” And the air person next to her would respond, “Yes. She is great!” And although I know my mom was just talking to our kitchen chairs, and I knew that I was not performing on stage at an amphitheater, and I knew that I was really just dancing around my kitchen with a huge ladle, I felt so special like maybe I was just as cool as Cyndi Lauper or Tiffany or even dare I say it…Madonna! Gasp!
Every now and then, my mom and I look back at that and laugh. She always says that our childhood was the best time of her life. I don’t know if my mom knows this, but her always being willing to hear me butcher 80’s pop songs and live through my long-winded originals, is what made me proud of my skill and what made me hone it as I got older. I always knew that singing in school or in public places like the train or staying up for hours singing made me a bit of a freak. I am sure my classmates from high school who might be reading this now will remember how I would get in trouble for singing in class or in the hall or at gym or on class trips. It was my thing. Well that and writing, but I think being able to sing AND write go hand in hand many times. But I am sure that if my mother did not tolerate my kitchen concerts or ALL the singing I would do on the way home from school (I would seriously recite the Pledge of Allegiance and then end with either “America the Beautiful” or the National Anthem) I don’t think I would have had the confidence and love of music and singing that I do today. I wouldn’t have performed, for real, throughout my childhood at religious and community events or school functions. I wouldn’t have entered talent shows in college, and I wouldn’t have learned how to play the guitar.
These are things that I like to remember and the stories that I like to tell.