Another Little Laila

little girl singing2Dear Mom,

I haven’t gone to the gym yet, which is what I’m really trying to get myself to get into the habit of doing more consistently. But what I have been doing consistently is practising singing. I love it.

Last week, I went to a karaoke night all ready to sing “for you” as usual. But I got the feeling you showed up for me there as well. At least I hope that’s what it was.

There was this little girl outside the restaurant, on the patio, sitting with her parents, I presume. She was so animated with her gestures. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, because they were on the other side of the glass windows and I was inside. But I smiled to myself, thinking of how she probably would have reminded you of your granddaughters. You were so entertained by your granddaughters’ antics- especially the rolling eyes, and big enthusiastic hand and arm gestures. And of course, the pointing fingers at her parents. You loved that kind of emphatic, excited way about kids, especially in your own grand kids.

I so wished you were there to see this. I was imagining the look on your face. I so wish you were there, that you are here, to see so many things unfold in the life you created in me, and your son, and your grand kids. And also in your larger family.

The happiness I felt for those moments, thinking about you as I watched this girl outside, kind of seemed to turn into sadness, of missing you.

I was watching the others sing, and being a little social where I was at. But I couldn’t veer my gaze too far from that little girl. I seemed to always be aware of where she was going, as if I was connected to her or knew her somehow.

She came in for bit, to take a peek at one of the singers inside. As she placed her palms of her hands under her chin, she rested her elbows on the corner of a table. She seemed pretty mesmerized by the singer on stage, or maybe by the whole concept of singing.

Dreamy. She seemed to be dreaming- maybe about that being her?

Her parents eventually came inside to join her. I think it was getting colder outside. And the karaoke host had tried to motion to the woman and her daughter that it was their turn to go up next to sing. It turns out that the little girl had put in a song earlier, but now it seemed that she was too shy to go up and sing it.

When I asked the girl which song it was that she would have liked to sing, she said something about girl on fire. I didn’t put the title together with songs I knew, because I figured that since she is five (her mother told me her age), that she was talking about a more young girl’s song.

It turns out it wasn’t so young girl. It was the Beyonce song This Girl is On Fire. I told her it was a good choice. And then I could have sworn I hear the girl’s mom say your name. Laila. As usual, I thought I must have heard her wrong. You know, that wishful thinking of always wanting to hear your name, feel it as a sign that you are nearby, and then sometimes realizing that it wasn’t what was said.

“What is your daughter’s name?” I asked her mom.

“Laila,” she said. I had to fight back the tears. I know my eyes looked upwards and back behind me, or at least to the side of me. I had to look away. I tend to do this more lately when I get emotional and don’t want to overwhelm the people or person in front of me with it.

But I looked back at girl’s mom and said, “My mom’s name was Laila. (Sorry, I should have said it IS Laila). She passed away four years ago.”

The woman looked sorry to hear that. But I said, “No, no. I see this as a sign. That your daughter’s name is Laila. It makes me feel like my mom is here somehow with me, at this very moment.”

“Maybe that’s why you had a connection with my daughter. Why you noticed her.”

Yes, exactly. Maybe.

I offered to sing the This Girl is On Fire song with that little girl. Her mom even tried to convince her to sing it with me. But she was really shy and said no.

I left it alone at that point.

The part that got stranger was that not long after, this young Ismaili guy, funny enough, sitting at the back booth got up to sing a song with this other girl- she was probably in her 20’s. He looked over at me when he got on the stage with her and said, “Could you be her backup? I don’t know this song really.”

I was confused, and didn’t even know what song he was talking about or whether I would even know it.  But he handed me the mic and then I looked up and the song had started.

“She’s just a girl and she’s on fire…”

It was This Girl Is on Fire. I was so shocked. I knew the song, and wanted to sing it, but it was Little Laila’s song. I wanted her to come up and sing it. I tried to motion to the DJ to let him know this was the song the little girl wanted to sing. He tried handing her a third mic. She wasn’t taking it. I walked as far down off the stage with my chorded mic to get the little girl to sing with me. But she wouldn’t.

I sang the rest of the song with the girl who was already on stage and had chosen the song. But all the while, I was thinking what are the chances? Of THAT song being the choice? And that I just happened to ask the little girl which song she would have chosen? And that her name was Laila? This can’t all be coincidence.

I felt badly because I didn’t want the little girl to think that I “stole” her song. That I chose it after she told me she wanted to sing it. I would never have done that. I would have put the song in to see if she would want to sing it. I hope she understood that I didn’t even know that that song was going to be chosen by someone else. I had nothing to do with it.

But did you, Mom?

Did you plant a little Laila in that karaoke place, for me to connect to?

I ask these questions often, trying to be hopeful. And then another part of me sinks down thinking that this is just another way for the universe to remind that you’re gone. And that I didn’t do all I could to help you have the best life you could have. That I was not the best daughter I could have been. That is not the attitude I want to take. So I am going to revert to the hope that this was you, bringing another little innocent Laila into my path, to tell me you are always there with me.

I love you, Mom. And I love your name. You and it are forever beautiful. Always in my heart, the name at the tip of my tongue, and its sound resonating all around me.

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Together Again

Dear Mom,

I know my letters here aren’t the most uplifting, or just seem full of sadness. But I wanted you to know that I am trying to keep my spirits up and stay hopeful, to believe in what I might not be able to feel yet, but that I wish to feel. Actually, it’s more about what I wish you feel- safe, free, happy, worry free, at peace and without pain or regret.

So I found a new song -well, it’s actually an old song, but it’s new on my list of songs to sing to you, for you- to keep me moving towards my wishes. My wishes for you.

It’s the song “Together Again” by Janet Jackson. She is Michael Jackson’s sister. Maybe you already knew that. Or if you didn’t while you were here, maybe you do now because I am imagining that you can see and know much more now that you are with other angels.

It’s funny how I grew up listening to a lot of Janet Jackson songs, and I know this one, or I thought I did. But it wasn’t until now that I actually listened to the lyrics more deeply. And it’s amazing how fitting they are for my wishes- that we will be together again, that I could feel you shining down on me, that I could feel your love around me.

I guess when I was younger, the words wouldn’t have had the same meaning to me anyway, or I wouldn’t have known what it would feel like to want these things yet.  Maybe I could have wished them for Mama and my’s relationship.  But I don’t think I was old enough to fully understand how much these words could mean to me, and speak to me.

I love the chorus:

Everywhere I go, every smile I see

I know you are there, smiling back at me

Dancing in moonlight, I know you are free

‘Cause I can see your star shinin’ down on me.

To imagine you dancing in moonlight… wow! That would be amazing, and make me feel so happy, to see your freedom and happiness. Your lightness. Your shine.  (I just realized that I must have been singing some very wrong lyrics to this song when I was younger.  I had no idea she was saying “Dancing in moonlight.” What had I been singing all this time? That’s the great thing about the internet now, we can look up the lyrics to see what they really are, and then make fun of the silly things we used to make up because we just didn’t know any better).

The line There are times when I feel you smile upon me, baby gives me goosebumps, especially when I really sing it out loud in that higher key change in the music. A good cry to the heavens.  I can feel how much I want it. How much I want to feel you again, your smile, our connection, your love not just as a memory but as a presence that still exists. I want to believe that it does and it will always continue.

I just need to change the word “baby” throughout the song to “mommy” and it would all fit, including the part about drawing strength from your words, your love and what you’ve taught me.

And then to be able to see you again one day. “Always been a true angel to me, now above, I can’t wait for you to wrap your wings around me, baby.” My angel mother.  Together again, someday.

“I’ll never forget you.”

I wonder who Janet Jackson was thinking about when she said those words.
I will never forget you, mommy. You are with me and thought of every moment of every day.  This song is going to be one of my new prayers to sing for you, Mom.

You’re Simply the Best

Dear Mom,

I’ve been trying to get over my fear of singing in front of people, so I’ve been going out to Karoake more often. I still get nervous, and can be hard on myself in terms of how my singing voice comes across, but I try to remember why I am doing this. It’s not supposed to be just about pleasing others, or about comparing myself to others. But just about using my voice to reach others, and to reach something deep down in myself. And to bring it out. But mostly, I want to sing for you, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. That keeps it real for me, or unreal, depending on how you look at it.

Unreal because I want you to be able to hear me. I hope you do. I hope you hear me and it brings you peace and happiness. I hope the resonance of music and my voice making it transcends this supposed boundary between heaven and earth, between you and me.  Even the songwriting that I’ve been dabbling in lately is for you.

I was sitting next to this guy at a sushi bar a couple of years ago in Seattle. And we got to talking, and he said it really well when he said something like, “The funny thing is that the more you sing and create music, people will think the songs are all about some guy, some big love and heartbreak in your life. But in fact, all the songs will be about your mom, and people won’t even realize.”

And he’s right, except for the “people won’t even realize” part.  Because I am going to tell them. I will make sure that as much as I can, I will be telling people about you, telling them that the songs are for you and about you.

The one I want to learn now is called Simply the Best by Tina Turner.  Because that’s what you are, and will always be- the best.  One of the hosts at the karaoke places sings the song a lot. She does such a great job of it. And even though it is an older song, she just makes me FEEL it, when she sings it. And so now, it is in my head often.  And you are in my heart always. And I want to blend the two together to sing You’re Simply the Best for you, my mother, the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thank you for being my mom and for giving me so much love and kindness and sweetness in my life.

This song, and all other songs really, are for you.

“You’re simply the best

Better than all the rest

Better than anyone

Anyone I ever met

I’m stuck on your heart

I hang on ever word you say…”