By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE – While doing preliminary research on one of my 62 book ideas – the 100 greatest story songs of all-time (already have about 80 and haven’t even gotten to Springsteen, Dylan, Woody Guthrie or many other brilliant writers yet) – I naturally crossed paths with the Joni Mitchell classic “The Circle Game.”
The song’s theme of childhood innocence lost, simply stated with powerful imagery, turned my thoughts to a familiar place.
I began to ask myself where, in this song, she – six years in – is at.
She is, for the most part, still in the first verse; still coming out to wonder, catching dragonflies inside jars (she prefers butterflies and fireflies, but let us not quibble over minor details).
She still doesn’t mind being called “Bunny” (shortened from “Honey Bunny”) and/or snuggled at night and/or carried when she is tired, and scoffs at the notion that she won’t want those things one day.
But Sofia is also an old soul.
She gains more from watching “The Waltons” or “The Brady Bunch” than from rather silly cartoons without much in the way of redeeming qualities, other than to serve as a boot camp for our most young and impressionable to march in the army of the culturally challenged.
Recently, while making cards for her wonderful Kindergarten teachers – the lead teacher, the assistant teacher and the student teacher – my wife asked Sofia what she wanted to write.
And Sofia started to sob, realizing that she will not interface with her teachers – at least not in the same way – anymore.
When we drive by her old preschool, her beloved St. John’s on Skippack Pike, she is so prone to bursting into tears that she now looks away.
We asked what she will do when she passes her current school – which she loves just as much – she explained that she will do the same thing.
She already seems to understand the “Circle Game” in its entirety, which is both encouraging and heartbreaking at the same time.
This type of depth of feeling by Sofia – the author of two books, one about rainbows and the other about our cats, on an iPad program — is not uncommon.
Good thing? Bad thing?
Not sureLife is tougher for an overly sensitive person – I know this, because it’s in the genes (just paused for a healthy cry when Ryan Bingham’s brilliant “The Weary Kind” came up on Pandora) – but I’d prefer her to feel on a deeper level than to grow callus and put armor around her soul.
Parts of us, as parents, want our kids to stay in the first verse of “The Circle Game” forever.
But we know that our role is to guide them toward independence — and enduring their declarations of it, knowing it is for the best in the long run.
We look back on each of Sofia’s stages fondly.
We are a bit wistful at times looking through old pictures and videos, but we try to cherish the moments as they come at a fast and furious pace.
Sofia is a busy little girl – with many interests that we indulge beyond what may not have been possible if she were not an only child.
Although she made a spirited first try at coach-pitch “baseball” this spring, her first love remains the arts.
Dancing is her primary passion, and she has been in two recitals so far, with a third pending in a few weeks.
She begins piano lessons this week, and that is a continuation of what she has learned – since a toddler — at Milestones In Music in Lansdale.
You might think, since I’m a music-lover, that she is being pushed too fast.
Truth be told, she would have it no other way.
Her musical taste features a nice mixture of being age-appropriate – all the Disney princess songs she knows by heart – but she also digs a lot of the songs of her parents.
This was evident when it came time for her annual picture at J.C. Penney.
Starting at 6 months – when the sub-title to the picture was “Child Of Mine – 6 Months Old” – we relished in selecting the song title to be the theme of the picture.
Typically, but not always, I would pick out the song title and mommy would put together an outfit – or outfits – to match it.
We had “She’s The One” at one, “Tiny Dancer” at two, “Sunshine On My Shoulders” at three, “Pretty In Pink” at four and “Daydream Believer” at five.
There was a nice list for this year – “Freebird” and “American Girl” and “California Dreamin’” were among the finalists – but she had her own ideas.
And what Sofia wants, Sofia usually gets.
Especially, when it shows us that – for better or worse – she is progressing through “The Circle Game.”
Her choice: “Rocky Mountain High” (mommy is more the John Denver fan than daddy, but a guy has to pick his battles).
Since I fancy myself a bit of a dime-store musicologist – a title that might get more validity when that CD of co-written original songs is burned and when this book on story songs, which I thought would write itself but gets more complicated by the day, hits the shelves (at least our shelf at home) – I took a closer look at this Denver anthem in an attempt to understand why it appeals to Sofia.
It is about the natural beauty of the state of Colorado, about nature (another one of Sofia’s interests, clearly from her mother, as daddy is a city boy).
The best I can do is that, at its core, “Rocky Mountain High” — co-written by Denver and Mike Taylor – is simply stated with powerful energy.
Much like “The Circle Game.” Much like the ongoing story of Sofia.