Monday, 24 March 2014

My Grandmother's Birthday Party

Really, Sue? Really? You disappear from your blog for two weeks, and then write about your grandmother's birthday party?

Well, I asked Facebook for blog suggestions, and all I got was

1. People hate what they think is the Catholic church and
2. Your grandma's birthday party

(And later, my friend S and my mum asking for posts featuring THEM. Be careful what you wish for.)

So of course I chose the deeper, more challenging, more spiritually impacting option. Or not.

I realized yesterday that my family is kind of strange.

No offence, family (My grandmother and her siblings)

This realization hit me as my extended family, cousins, aunts, uncles sat around my grandparents' living room celebrating my grandmother's 81st birthday, and  as usual we started singing... and my cousin's new(ish) husband, D, was playing the guitar.

"Let's sing 'Why Can't My Goose'!" I said. "Yes, yes, 'Why Can't My Goose'," agreed everyone, as we looked expectantly at D, who looked confusedly back at us. I mean, who DOESN'T know that old favourite, 'Why Can't My Goose', which works best when sung in rounds, at every family gathering? This one-

Why can't my goose
Sing as well as thy goose
When I paid for my goose
Twice as much as thine?

All these years, this seemed like a normal and natural part of a family gathering. And then I heard it through my cousin-in-law's ears.

This realization was reinforced when my mom and her two sisters broke into a song, that was deceptively cheerful (with some la la las we were expected to join in) until we heard something about stilettos (knife, not shoe version) and then

With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw! 
I'll find this bullfighter, I will, and when I catch the bounder, the blighter I'll kill.

followed by

'He shall die! He shall die! He shall die tiddly-I-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!'

I kid you not.

You want to hear this song, don't you?

Here you go:

You're welcome.

We had to quickly distract them before they embarked on the long macabre playlist of 'Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley' and 'Sweeney Todd the Barber'. Yeah, we sang these songs before Johnny Depp made macabre cool.

And then there's the old favourite: 'The Orchestra' or 'The Instrument Song'. We have enough singers in our family for this to not only work well, but for everyone to enjoy it... every time. Basically groups of people sing different parts like

'The violins are ringing with joyful singing
The violins are ringing with joyful song'

'The clarinet, the clarinet 
Goes doodle doodle doodle doodle det. 
The clarinet, the clarinet 
Goes doodle doodle doodle dat.'

'The horn, the horn, whose song is forlorn
The horn, the horn, whose song is forlorn.'

And then everyone sings their parts together. Does this sound vaguely familiar to you? Well, maybe you are a Meg Ryan chick flick fan, and you saw it in 'You've Got Mail'!

I promise you we sounded better than that.

Where did this stuff come from? For how many generations has my family been singing these songs? Are there any other families who do the same? And are any of them Indian Catholics?

Let us ponder these great questions of life.


  1. Oh my goodness, this made me laugh! My family's playlist was pretty weird -- Irish music, Tennessee Ernie Ford, big band music, Johnny Cash, an album of Christmas music played entirely by music boxes. But we didn't sing and play the guitar! Enjoy your quirks -- sounds like fun to me!