Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

In which Kathryn attempts to sing a different song everyday from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, 'Singing the Living Tradition'. Earlier posts are based on songs from the Reader's Digest songbooks she found at yard sales as a child, including: 'Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs', 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook', and 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy'. Bonus Folk song material from: 'Folk Song USA', by John and Alan Lomax.

15 October 2005

"In a Shanty in Old Shantytown"

Although this is the most recently written song in this first section, 1932, it's not one that I bet many people have ever heard of, and I can see why it's not still known. But that's more the subject manner than the song itself, which is sweet enough. A Great Depression song.

The word 'shanty' makes me think of my grandfather. He was born in 1917, maybe he knew this tune. He died fifteen years ago this fall, and I miss him very, very much. He was my favorite grandparent, and the only one who's died, which seems really unfair.

He had a grade school education, and my mom speculates that he may have had dyslexia or another learning disability, because although he could read, it was a struggle for him. He would have my mom 'practice reading' when he needed instructions read. I can picture that easily, him and my mom as a kid, down in the basement of my grandparents' house, him working on some complicated project or another. He was amazing with his hands, always puttering, and could make anything, I believed. He built me and my sister dollhouses, as he built them for his three daughters; mine was finished when I was ten. My sister's was much more elaborate, with lighting that was never installed quite correctly. I remember doing leatherwork in school, which he enjoyed, and watching how he would work on his projects, having him give me projects to tackle.

He called me 'Kasa', my Polish nickname. No one else ever called me that. My mother was 'Mahnya' (I'm sure there's better Polish spelling). He was the only one to call my brother by a derivative of his middle name. Remember that, 'Tony'? He had nicknames for everyone, it seemed. They made us all feel very special, and unique to him, and loved.

He drew these great little sketches, people mostly; I remember them being on scraps, napkins. He smoked cigars. I threw one of them off a bridge when I was little, he had just lit it, but I didn't like the smell when he picked me up. He was tall-ish, with dark curly hair, and wore suits and a hat a lot. People thought he was Italian, and he would fake it, muttering Italian-sounding words to them. He liked red-haired women, in later life, at least, though my grandmother had been blond. He courted her heavily, even though she wasn't so interested at first. They had met at a wedding. When they got married, the two families were now twice related.

He never learned to drive, but was always the first one in the car to go anywhere, even to the grocery store. When the entire funeral procession got lost on the way to the cemetary (because the hearse was lost, and we all followed it obediently), we all got out of the car laughing. Pop-Pop's last ride, we said. My mom said that he knew, at the end, that he wasn't going to be around much longer, though it seemed so very sudden to me. And I didn't realize at the time how much of a hole in our lives there would be.

My brother, Chris, is a lot like him in some ways, the way he stands, pontificates, mutters. No offense, Chris. It's actually quite nice, since Pop-Pop isn't around. I just think it'd be great to see the two of you side by side like that again. And I would love for him to know my daughter. I tell her all about him, all the stories I can think of, over and over.

It makes my chest tight just to think about it. I miss him more and not less as the years go by. On alternate days I believe that our beloved dead might still be looking over us in some way, and it's always my grandfather that I want to see me now. Many parts of my life would be incomprehensible to him. He wouldn't have approved of my divorce, but he would have doted on my daughter in the biggest way. He would have come up with some goofy nickname for my husband. He had three girls himself, always said that he wanted a son, and loved the son-in-laws he got. He had more grandsons than granddaughters, and we always knew that we girls were his favorites. Especially me, *of course*, since I was the oldest. I'm glad of that now, especially since it means of my generation, I got to know him the longest.

I just miss him so much. That's the way it works, death, with those left behind.


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