The New Domesticity: A Musical Legacy
The nurse stood poised at the side of the hospital bed, ready to administer the pills my grandmother had grown accustomed to taking. As she lifted the spoon, my grandmother hesitated. Music was playing in the background, and just at that moment she heard a familiar strain. My grandmother’s eyes shone, shifted away from the immediacy of that spoon, and seemed to gaze instead toward a scene from the 1950s. She smiled, oblivious to all that was sterile and clinical around her. “This is Softly and Tenderly,” she whispered. She was swept into a sweet reverie, sharing with us how meaningful this song was to her as a young mother. Music filled the room, each lyric poignant: “Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing.” After several minutes had gone by (the nurse still patiently poised), my grandmother allowed herself to return to the present. As I held her hand, I marveled at the power of music. Here were a few notes strung together, a few rhyming words and lilting rhythms, and yet they were charged with the ability to transport a listener to another time and place.
This wasn’t the only time music filled that room. One morning, my dad and I were helping my grandmother decide on her upcoming menu options. It proved to be time consuming and unexpectedly arduous. At one point, the hospital attendant desperately suggested that a banana might go nicely with breakfast. My grandmother resolutely shook her head. We knew she didn’t care for bananas, but how was the attendant to know? Eager to lighten the atmosphere, I somehow instinctively blurted out the chorus, “Yes, We Have No Bananas!” We all laughed in relief, me trying to remember which Audrey Hepburn movie the song was in, my grandmother talking about how cute Hepburn was, my dad whipping out his phone to research the song’s origins, and the attendant helplessly wondering what my grandmother would have for breakfast if she was to have no bananas.
Music has the ability to lend peace, add humor, and enhance experiences in our lives.