One particular music book held a special place on the piano as I was growing up.
I called it MY big yellow songbook. Of course, I had to share, but it felt like mine.
I loved that book.
Mom would play the tunes on the piano while I sang along as best I could. I couldn’t pick a favorite song because each spoke to a different part of who I was or who I planned on becoming.
There were songs about visiting Grandpa’s farm, riding in an airplane, roller-skating, puppies and fluffy bunnies. These were wholesome lesson-filled songs about manners, songs of the seasons and of holidays, of family, extended family, nature, songs about things that young children love to see and do.
The train song got the most play time because we’d sing it on the way to either Grandparent’s homes when we saw a train, which seemed fairly frequent.
Making the songs even more entertaining were accompanying illustrations of brightly colored cherub faced children with shiny cheeks. A little girl rocks her dolly, children dressed for Halloween, a grandmother with her granddaughter on her lap reading a book, two kids on a pony racing a train, a giraffe and an elephant at the zoo.
My siblings and I loved that book to shreds. We colored in it, wrote in it, traced over the notes, wrote our names. The cover came loose, pages became ragged and worn, torn, and slowly went missing.
If there was anything left of that beloved music book by time Mom and Dad’s house fire took its toll, there was nothing after that. The piano was a loss, as was all of Mom’s music books and half the house.
Sixteen years ago a 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of “My Picture Book of Songs” came out and I got my hands on one. I felt I’d found buried treasure, won the lottery and hit the jackpot (sorry for the clichés) all at once. I gently turned the pages and felt a rush of nostalgia as my childhood swooped into the room and caught me up in a whirlwind of memory and delight.
I had sung those songs as best as I could remember to my own children as they were growing up. With the new edition I could share the pictures with them, too. I could also share the songs I had forgotten.
I’m sure that Alene Dalton, the illustrator; Myriel Ashton, who wrote the music; and Erla Young, the lyric writer had no idea the impact their book had on so many children and families. “My Picture Book of Songs” was originally written as preschool book for children and their teachers during World War II. MA Donohue published it in 1947.
Now, 66 years later, their book is part of my two-year-old granddaughter’s life. She adores the “choo choo” song among many others. Her eyes sparkle with joy as we look at the pages and share a sweet melody, a moment of timelessness.
Likewise, my own eyes sparkle, but mine are filled with tears and laughter and wonder.