Making memories isn’t always expensive
“It doesn’t take a lot to make great memories.”
This is so true. I can’t take credit for the above quote. It was posted by a Facebook friend of mine discussing how to keep it simple with her two children for Valentine’s Day and for her weekend plans. They were simple plans – just some popcorn and a movie at home. Who doesn’t love that?
But she’s right. Money has nothing to do with the best memories – memories that will last much longer than whatever money spent trying to impress your kids.
And here’s the thing. As a parent you can never impress your kids. Well, at least not by buying them something. They will always want more, a different color, another kind of something that will make you cringe at the thought of what you have just spent on what you thought was the gift of the century.
Only grandparents have this power, or occasionally aunts and uncles.
However, you can rack up some impressive points with experiences, most of which don’t cost a thing other than your time.
What we forget is that what kids want most is our attention and our time. No gift can ever duplicate that.
Here’s an example.
I recently took my daughters to see the American Spiritual Ensemble at The University of the South. I know what you are thinking. That whole sentence sounds expensive. However, it did not cost me anything other than my time and it left my children and me with an appreciation for the arts and the opportunity of a lifetime.
The ensemble was founded in 1995 by Everett McCorvey, who serves as professor of voice and director of opera at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He began the ensemble with a mission of keeping the African-American spiritual alive.
I recently interviewed McCorvey for the ensemble’s performance at Guerry Auditorium. They performed in a three-day residency at the university, where all the performances were free and open to the public.
A spiritual is a type of religious folksong that is most closely associated with the enslavement of African people in the South. The songs proliferated in the last few decades of the 18th century leading up to the abolishment of legalized slavery in the 1860s.
The African-American spiritual (also called the Negro Spiritual) constitutes one of the largest and most significant forms of American
folksong. Famous spirituals include “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” composed by a Wallis Willis, and “Deep Down in My Heart.”
McCorvey also refers to it as the “mother music.”
“Most of the people don’t know the difference between spiritual and gospel music,” said McCorvey. “These are the traditional American Negro spirituals that we are performing. The spirituals are the mother music where it got it all started.
“This music came from the slave fields where there was no accompaniment. Late 1800s, it was written down in the choral form and that’s the form we sing, either a cappella or with a piano. From the spirituals, many forms of music grew such as jazz, blues, gospel, pop, Broadway. Once we tell that story, people are really surprised and didn’t know just how much history there is in these songs. It really gives a whole new meaning in terms of their meaning in our music culture.”
After talking with McCorvey, I knew I had to see the performance for myself. I also knew that I had to take my daughters with me.
It has been a mission of sorts for me in the last few years to introduce my children to as much culture and history as I can. Not the easiest thing to do sometimes, but I have been diligent in trying to expose them to different types of art, history, music and so on.
Sometimes they willingly go and others take some convincing, but almost always they leave with an exclamation of “Oh, my gosh, Mom! That was great!”
So, with high hopes of “impressing” them, along with giving them another exposure to the arts, I told them that we would be heading up the mountain on Friday night.
I will admit it was a little hairy getting up there after trying to get everyone ready, fed and, most importantly, making sure their bladders were empty before we undertook the 40-minute trip to Sewanee.
I will also do a little bragging that I arrived 20 minutes early, which is never a bad thing when arriving with two children. We settled in just in time and the performance began.
Earlier in the week I had been talking to my girls about what to expect from the performance. I wanted them to understand as much as they could about the history of the songs.
However, that night they weren’t performing the spirituals. Instead we were treated to excerpts from the George Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.”
When the talented singers such as Angelique Clay stepped up to sing, each of my girls gasped in excitement. They had never seen an opera and were blown away by her voice as well as all of the other talented performers.
Then came the second half where we got to hear more of Gershwin along with some of the best known songs from jazz composer and pianist Duke Ellington.
The girls and I had just been talking about jazz and blues music, so we were all able to see some of the most well-known Ellington songs performed in real time.
At one point my oldest looked at me and said, wide-eyed, “This is so cool.”
We saw the best performers in the country perform some of the best and well-known jazz classics. Cool it was indeed.
In total it cost me nothing but my time and from the looks on both of my little ones’ faces it was more than worth it.
I reached out to McCorvey by email after the performance to let him know how much we enjoyed the performance.
He told me that he was glad that the girls liked it because they were the ones who would continue this music on, and he is right.
As parents, we all know how challenging and even expensive it can be to embark on an adventure, but with a little creativity you can do a lot for almost nothing.
Also, you never know when you are going to let your little one experience something that she may fall in love with and want to do for the rest of her life. Plus, it’s always good to venture outside your pond. We live in a very colorful and diverse world and it’s important to remember that.
Thanks to the American Spiritual Ensemble and The University of the South for a free and fun-filled adventure. It’s one we will keep with us always.