The nightgown-clad pre-schooler insisted, her first rock hard employment of personal trading chips in negotiation with me. Gabrielle propositioned with a smile, but behind her toothy beneficence mustered the workings of guile, a revelatory window into the growing social armoury of a four-year-old child.
Compliant with my edict she run through pre-bed bath chores and then ensconce under the twin bed covers upon finish, she slung the zinger at the end moment, requesting I play the Itsy Bitsy Spider song by Carly Simon. Seeing my evaluative uncertainty over the prudence of bedtime entertainment, she added a sweetener as coup de grace. In return for my cooperation, my child promised to bless me with her quiescence and following slumber. Such a reasonable proposal on the surface, and after all, we wish for strong daughters who make their opinions and outlook known.
Swayed by feminist inclination, a CD went in the cheap portable player dominating the third bookshelf centre area, nested between the Pikachu doll and the Brio trains. After setting the song for infinite replay, I swirled about and swooped in for a final hug of my twenty-eight years younger mini-twin, she of the curly dirty blonde hair that forever precludes returning to my preferred red for fear she dislike her own. A goodnight kiss and a wish for sweet dreams, I put the usual exclamation point on the end of her day.
False smugness believed the trade-off worked well, but as I flicked off the main light and the LED night one sparked to life, the first hint of snookered crept over me. My sensitive aural receivers caught the initial melodic strains of the infectious song, and in minutes, even at low volume and with me in the downstairs living space, the refrain somehow wafted down the nearby stairwell, sowed fertile ground, and implanted.
Acute otovermosis – an earworm – overwhelmed my native brain activity like invasive milfoil rooting in a pristine lake.
The itsy bitsy spider…
Who knew? My child, so benign and lovable and a great companion, comes armed with the innate hidden ability to manipulate a mix of effervescent charm with remote use of an aural instrument to attract the unsuspecting into her world.
…climbed up the waterspout… damn.
A tumbler of Pinot Grigio teamed with my latest read preceded bed, absent played music. I shut down the CD forty minutes post play, but not before eight repeats. A sneak peek confirmed her sleep and granted easy passage to the CD player. The stoppage relieved me of further musical imprinting, or so I believed, until midway down the stairs.
…down came the rain…
Early morning scrolled by absent song and without event, my Manchurian candidate of a child bundled for cold in the protective northern tools of boots, parka, mittens, and scarf, de rigueur winter gear for forced marches to the sitters. Settling into the Acura for the hour’s work commute, NPR didn’t fit my needs for the drive and prompted a switch to the local college FM station, playing Dreams by the Cranberries.
An hour later, I ascended the stairwell to work floor two, armed with a new song.
…my life is changing everyday, in every possible way…
Through forty-two phone calls and three unscheduled meetings, Dolores O’Riordan sang to me in the privacy of my Muzak subscribed mind – as she did for the next two days. Through sleep, while awake, when relieving myself, and during consumption of meals, on it went until out of sheer exasperation and desperate for relief, I slid in the Cranberries CD in the car player. The little munchkin sat pliant and silent behind me, strapped into her elevated special carriage, senses attuned to the world as she saw it from the anchorage of the mid-back seat. The prompt to play Dreams served as a pre-emptive strike, musical exorcism, and a firebreak what would cut off the flow of fuel from this interminable song and set me free.
We turned onto the highway on-ramp just as Dolores broke into the endsong chant. Something in me – whether the work of a roguish devil or the impish contrivance of a goddess diva or both, I know not – guided my hand to the volume knob and cranked right, while a bi-teaming unknown force flash-pressed my knee. The shove mashed my foot down hard, goosing the accelerator.
The ads for this sedan claimed 0-100 kph in six point whatever seconds, not at all a sluggish, unresponsive automobile. Gravity and acceleration worked out a conspiracy of physics and impelled me back against the heated seat, just as Dolores chanted out ‘laaaahhhhhh aaaahhhhhh, laaahaieeaaaha…’ the sonant key to my anti-otovermosis disjunction, belted out right until I left-signalled my highway merge.
The sign at the merge declared the highway speed limit fixed at 110 kph, and I rushed past 135. My foot lightened off the accelerator while alert eyes scoured the following shapes in the rear view, above and beyond the Cheshire Cat smile of the strapped in backrider. I hoped not to see the low profile of car roof bubble lights spark to life behind me.
Even as Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys wiggled into my mind from the odd descriptive of my newest worry, an enthusiastic voice from the back requested,
“Mommy, do it again!”
Right there, I knew. The human propensity of inspiration by music claimed my child as it did me, as it does most all of us, and arc-welded it to the exhilaration of speed, a new-formed lifelong vice. I’m so ashamed.
We did it again.