23 May Meeting Raffi as a Beluga Grad
Miss Conte, my favorite teacher, led schoolwide sing-alongs on her guitar at Sherburne Elementary School (Killington Elementary School). We belted out This Land is Your Land, Down by the Bay, and If I Had a Hammer, along with She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, and Chicken Lips & Lizard Hips. The lyrics to those songs became a part of who I am (well, not the chicken lips part). Messages of for you and me and love between my brothers and my sisters, I mean.
On long car rides, my little sister Erika and I would sing songs to pass the time. Along with the above, we’d sing our poorly-remembered version of the “toast to belly stars” song from a cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches. We even made our own potty humor spoof on Baby Beluga (And the little white whale has to go).
Erika would get upset hearing about the baby going down the drain in A Mother’s Lament (a song I knew because my dad would sing it to us in the tub), and to make her feel better after that one, we’d sing All I Really Need. I remember watching Raffi videos with kids I babysat, but I wasn’t too old to enjoy them myself.
This childhood soundtrack stuck around into adulthood. The song Cory and I chose for our wedding guests to sing was This Little Light of Mine. The Arts District of Glens Falls is founded on the principle of The More We Get Together.
And here’s where the story really begins. When Henry needed nebulizer treatments, we broke our no-screens rule to keep him still, and chose the most wholesome thing we could think of to let him watch on our phones — Raffi videos. My husband Cory and I became re-enamored with the entertainer, inspired by not only his catchy tunes, but his movement called Child Honouring. As a family we delved full-force into the church of Raffi, checking his books and albums out from the library and boning up on Raffi’s latest, which includes new albums and books. We started following him on Twitter (@Raffi_RC).
We have an adorable video of two-year-old Henry singing Down by the Bay, and when Henry saw the ocean for the first time, I held him in my arms as we walked the beach, and I softly sang Baby Beluga to him. When Raffi retweeted the Family Time article I wrote about screen time, I was thrilled.
It was a no brainer for us to buy tickets to see Raffi live in concert at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont. I tweeted him several times about how excited we were to see him live, and he responded each time.
Raffi didn’t let us down. It was just like the old videos. I mean just like them. He opened with “Hello Boys and Girls, Moms and Dads,” to which we enthusiastically replied, “Hi, Raffi!” He opened with The More We Get Together, led us through Something in My Shoe. He had us get up and Shake My Sillies Out. It was perfect. The arc of the show, building in excitement, bringing it low and sweet with an audience rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and moving to Thanks A Lot by Raffi solo, then back up with more singalongs.
Henry mouthed the words while I sang loud and proud, relishing in the sound of my voice singing these songs I’ve sung my whole life, singing together with the REAL RAFFI in the SAME ROOM. It was pure delight, better than karaoke. And Henry finally found his voice during Down By The Bay, and then the concert ended with This Little Light of Mine, which Henry sang along to with gusto (though he also did try to blow my light out over and over again, the little rascal).
And at the end, after the encore, Raffi sang the new Beluga verse, for us “Beluga Grads”:
“Now you’ve grown and you’re on your way,
Making waves in the boundless bay
With your shining light and your dreams alive
For the ones you’ll have one day.
Grown-up beluga, grown-up beluga—
Sing a song of peace, sing with all your friends,
We need to hear you!”
It was like he was singing just to me. I teared right up. And he showed us the video for the song he wrote for Bernie Sanders rallies, Wave of Democracy.
We met him afterward. Henry was so good and patient, even though it was late at night. Raffi’s tour manager was kind and let us know they were aware that it was late and that kids are tired and that it was okay to let them do their crazy thing. But Henry just patiently waited, with the gift we had put together for Raffi. I made a painting, and Henry decorated the wrapping.
Raffi told me that two of Bernie Sanders’ daughters had attended the show. He was really excited! And he was just lovely in person, really saying hello to each person and having a moment with them, graciously signing anything presented to him. He took our gift and put it aside to open later. He was just totally down to earth, and a person I could see us being friends with.
So anyway, here’s the Wave of Democracy video. Please give it a listen, and share the link.
Raffi really wants it to go viral, and to be sung at Bernie Sanders rallies. He has done so much for me — I mean, sometimes when I’m about to completely lose it with Henry, I just think to myself, Child Honouring, and those words have probably saved me from throwing Henry out a window when he asks for salt and pepper on his corn and then cries when there is salt and pepper on his corn — anyway, where was I?
Oh yes, Raffi has done so much for me, that I think it’s time I did something for him. Please listen and share.