Dear friends of Switchback,
There are days when I find myself at home asking out loud, “Who is this little human that lives with us and where did she come from?” Áine turned five years old on Monday. For me that is something both amazing and sad to behold. The sad part is obvious, in that it means that I too, am five years older. It also means that gone for good is that little baby girl, toddler and ultra portable kid. Now, there is this little human. With little human observations.
For example, her enjoyment of the Hamilton official soundtrack. Áine listened to it just two times and started singing the songs around the house. Annie gave her the blow-by-blow as the album played and employed a history lesson using American currency. At night Áine's prayer became, “God Bless Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, those three other men, and the Schuyler sisters.” And then after a brief thought, “And please bless a little bit King George and the soldiers, even though they were kind of mean.”
As her compassion to King George and the redcoats show, she remains very sensitive to the plight of other people, consoling her fellow classmates at school. During the Nativity play last month, Aine was cast as Mary. When her best friend (who was dressed as an angel) started crying because she didn’t see her parents, Aine shifted the baby Jesus under one arm, then pointed out to the crowd and said, “Look! Don’t cry, they’re right over there!”
Annie's mother gave Annie and myself a crystal Waterford “make up bell” some years back. For those who never have an argument in their relationship, this is a bell you ring to break up an argument and encourage the parties “make up.” Áine discovered the meaning of this bell and now, even discussions about filling the bird feeder are interrupted by the tinkling sound of a bell, rung by a smiling girl. I have found myself much more careful in how I approach topics with Annie, as I always see Áine reaching for the bell.
Thankfully, she still enjoys playing at parks. She has travelled to numerous parks around the north side of Chicago and into Evanston. The fact that she comes alone doesn’t normally faze her, for there are always new friends to be made. “Hi friends,” she says, “will you play with me?” She is blind to any differences in people that us older folks are unfortunately far too aware of. To her, a kid is nothing more or less than a potential friend. Usually she is able to take on the older kids and keep up running and playing tag. Her own joy in connecting with people is infectious and allows her Papa the opportunity to connect with the other kids' parents. Many a wonderful conversation with a stranger has been started by Áine wishing to play with their kid. She has made me more open to saying hello to people and putting the feeling of joy into practice.
The world does creep in and already she has picked up that girls and boys are different. She is aware that other girls talk about looks and clothes. It’s hard to run interference on it and allow her to not start down that path already. The joy is that she is still a kid.
She does have a crush, on a little boy in her class named Max. She considers him cute. “I’m going to marry Max,” she once said. I froze. For now, she is still Papa’s girl, thankfully.
And, she surprised me when she announced she wants to be a singer. Already Áine has composed several songs and shows an interest in instruments. Where she goes with this is up to her.
It is hard to wave goodbye to the toddler, the baby girl and start making room for the young girl, with young girl ideas. Already there are times when I will glance at her and see the future young woman. In the meantime I thank God for each day I can hold her, carry her upstairs at night and still have that great feeling of a little daughter, peaceful and sleepy with her Papa.
[Our friends Martin and Brian have asked me to drop the old phonograph needle on some of their tunes, perhaps some lesser known, and report back to everyone.]
“Let me take you down . . ‘Cause I’m going to . .” begins the Beatles’ famous “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It’s an opening that seduces you into the song. Switchback does that without even uttering a word in “Love Won’t Run Away” on their Bolinree album.
Brian FitzGerald’s careful guitar notes walk beside you while a slow, gentle wave of instruments ushers you to the song’s center. Once you are there, warmed and welcomed, Martin McCormack begins to offer what partner Brian has composed. He draws out words in high clear tenor: “Since I called your name, You came, Never to leave me . .”
This is the fourth cut on 2005’s Bolinree, right in the middle of a banquet of traditional Irish tunes along with the title-track’s bittersweet homage to Marty’s ancestral home in County Mayo. “Love Won’t Run Away” is a little too easy to overlook amongst the high-energy jigs and Brian’s Gatling-gun mandolin on “Drunken Sailor.” But there it is, calling out its sweet promise.
Mid-song a bevy of Middle-Eastern drums and an Irish flute come forward, flashing mystique and carrying us over time. The instruments are double-tracked as both are played by Chicago squeezebox legend John Williams. Then Marty is back, taffy-pulling syllables. (I just imagine all those stretched vowels hanging out backstage after “Love Won’t Run Away,” happily exhausted and grinning from “i” to “i.”)
“Love Won’t Leave” is just the sort of song that begs Carly Simon’s most famous line with a joyful variation, as in I’ll bet you wish this song was about you, don’t you?. Well, yes, I confess. Who wouldn’t want the love and devotion that powers Brian’s closing lyric?
“When I say I do, I do forever”
Doug Kamholz is an itinerant washboard player who has freelanced for the New York Times, Washington Post and many lesser media. His most honest work was as a pig farmer in central Illinois, where he now lives and occasionally makes dinner for Switchback.
American Roots & Celtic Soul