Song of a Child

Sometimes it feels impossible to join together with others and sing with one voice.

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Public Domain

‘O Canada! Our home and native land!’

‘Stop. Stop! You. You with the hair. No, no, no. The tall one in the back.’

You look around and raise your hand.

‘Yes. You.’

You smile—pleased to be acknowledged by the new singing teacher, Mrs MacKenzie. The PTA has brought her in ‘special’ to prepare the school for the city-wide singing festival. You want to impress.

‘Please—a little less—enthusiasm. Let’s try that again.’

You’re not quite sure what she means but you’re happy to try it again.

‘O Canada! Our home and native land!’

‘No, no. That won’t do. You, frizzy hair. You’re much too loud. You’re drowning out the others. Try to sing quieter. And again.’

‘O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts, we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada!

Mrs MacKenzie blows a whistle.

And you know, before she looks at you, before she speaks, that you have forgotten to sing quietly. Every head turns. Everyone stares at you. Your face feels hot.

‘I’m afraid this will not do. One voice may not stand out. We must blend together and sing as one. Is that understood?’

You nod. You try again but it’s impossible to sing quietly.

The next week, when your class goes for singing, Mrs MacKenzie says that you must not sing.

‘You must “mouth” the words.’

You try—but sometimes you forget and words just come tumbling out.

On the day of the singing festival, you are informed that you will not be accompanying your classmates on the bus to the city centre. The principal, Mr Pelletier, comes by and takes you to another classroom. There are four other students—others deemed unable to blend together and sing as one. You are each handed an Illustrated Atlas to look through for the rest of the morning.

You study the maps and pictures of faraway lands. And you begin to dream of exploring other countries; other places where you might be allowed to sing out loud.

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Patricia Mahoney started her writing career as a playwright with five professionally-produced plays and since released a book/CD of stories.

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