Dinner preparation is chaos, usually. Five p.m. is universally recognized by parents to be some type of witching hour, during which kids become possessed by some tiny but fierce inner demons (I imagine them looking like the Mucinex creature), and melt down, whine, cling to legs, and demand unreasonable things; pots boil over, the oven is always too hot, the dog barks at nothing and altogether too many tasks are being crammed into too short a period of time. This has improved somewhat since the kids have gotten older, and since my daughter has grown into liking some of the things my son likes. They don’t watch much television at all during the week, but at 5:00 pm Monday-Thursday they munch down apple slices on the couch in the family room and watch Maya & Miguel together, the inner demons temporarily quelled by the colorful characters on the screen, and the mechanical crunching of apples.

Music also has a calming effect in our house as well. If I am really quick, and dinner isn’t ready yet–which it so often isn’t–I can soften the transition from Maya & Miguel to complete, unleashed lunacy, by quickly turning on the radio to our local classical station, or by popping in a favorite CD. This works particularly well with my son, who I can safely say has loved music from the day he was born. Songs were the only way to get him to sleep for any length of time resembling a nap, and to keep him asleep. When he was a baby we had to set the boom box on “repeat” so the CD would play continuously, and I still remember lying exhausted and spread-eagled across our bed in our tiny apartment while Enya or John Lennon played in an endless loop. If the music stopped, L. would inevitably awaken and we’d hear Eh-eh-eh-eh? coming from the baby monitor and go in to find him awake and confused, his little baby head bobbing up and down in the crib.

Why did the song stop? He seemed to be asking us. What happened to the music?

Songs used to make him want to get up and dance, his whole body moving to the music, his arms stretching up as if he’s trying to grab the notes from the air and make them his own. When he was a toddler and I would catch him singing and dancing to something I would ask him, teasingly, Do you have a song in your heart? and he would answer, Yes, Mama! My heart has music! Now he no longer dances much to music, but it still has the power to calm and capture him. He might stop what he’s doing when a favorite song comes on, and remain entirely oblivious to the chaos I often struggle to block out. I can almost see the world spinning around him and he is at the center, his head bent so slightly towards the speakers, his eyes staring in concentration and his lips moving a little now and again to the words of the song.

T. has become the dancer now, twirling her hands in the air and kicking her feet up in a comical way she struts around the room in time to the music. People who visit us often comment that we have music on all the time at our house, sometimes different songs playing in different rooms. I can’t imagine it any other way; it’s a thread that pulls me back through time, back to T.’s infancy and long nights spent listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while rocking in the darkened living room, back to the small graduate-school days apartment we loved so much and to Enya and Lennon’s Beautiful Boy, back to that crib my husband so carefully put together, the crib where L. slept when he was so tiny still and music filled our apartment, working its way into his heart, where it still plays so beautifully for all of us.