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Jack Zaleski, Published October 12 2013

Zaleski: Ready to learn from my granddaughters

As much as I like my work, a vacation is a good thing. By the time readers pick up The Forum today, I’ll be enjoying the company of my triplet granddaughters and their mom at their beautiful country home in the hills near Chelsea, Vt. The girls are 7 years old, and as any grandparent knows, that’s a wonderful age.

In prep for the trip, I’ve been calling the girls early in the morning as they are getting ready for school. A couple of years ago, I taught them the old children’s song “Good Morning Merry Sunshine,” and the music and lyrics stuck with them. So when I call, they insist on wailing through both verses (well, the two I know).

It really is fun. Their rendition is not the stuff of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but the joy and energy and giggling they bring to the morning performance make up for a shade or two of disharmony. More importantly, they are so proud to have remembered the lyrics that if one of them skips a word or misplaces a beat, they insist on starting again. And they have made it clear (second-graders can be haughty) that they’d rather I not sing along.

The song is a generational connection. I learned it back in the dark ages when I was in kindergarten. It dates to an 1894 poem, but I’m not sure when it was put to music. It’s one of those marvelous children’s songs that simply sketches a picture in song and words that can be fresh every day – like the sunrise.

And, of course, it sparks curiosity in kids when the lyric asks:

“How did you get way over there, and have you come to stay?”

Consider the opportunities for teaching and learning in that short poetic phrase. Consider the magic of the cosmos that can spring from a simple musical question.

It’s hard to tell how long the girls will enjoy doing things together – like singing a song in the morning. Their personalities and interests are going in different directions. One loves to fish (bait the hooks and all), and paint pictures; another is a budding stage performer who positively glows at applause; the third demonstrates athletic skill and fierce competitiveness in soccer and swimming.

So, during the next days, the four of us (mom, too) will share our knowledge and wisdom. When it’s all done, I suspect I’ll have learned more from them than they from me. Does it get any better than that?

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.