Where Everybody Knows Your Name

In the Klems family we sing. And not in the fake, underwear-clad Tom Cruise lip-syncing-in-Risky-Business sort of way, but more in the loud, boisterous and (usually) off-key sort of way. We do it everywhere: in the shower, in the car, on the softball field when we're down by several runs and need to get pumped up (Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is perfect for this, no matter how much your teammates may disagree).

It's not uncommon to be hanging out with my Klems' side of the family and, in the middle of dinner or a board game, hear them break out in song. It's a tradition that's predated me. In fact, it's predated my dad, my dad's dad and probably another dad or two beyond that. It's built into our DNA, much like good looks, high IQs and the ability to grow enviable mustaches in less than 3.5 hours.

But with each generation, there's an introduction of new DNA (our spouse's) that may have its own set of rules. The new DNA will often have great qualities—beautiful smile, wonderful laugh, amazing pair of voluptuous … eyes. The new DNA will also have broken strands that fight against your favorite things, like playing video games or licking the Dorito cheese off your fingers (no matter how good they know it tastes).

From the moment I started dating my wife I knew her DNA had one major, major flaw: No singing. Not in the morning. Not in the evening. Not in the shower. Not in the car. Not in front of anyone, living, dead or deaf. I learned this our first Christmas Eve together. We joined my family and, in Klems' tradition, sat around the tinsel-laced tree and sang carols for a mere 120 minutes (that's 2 hours for the non-math majors in the crowd). My wife didn't open her mouth once—not once. No Hark the Herald Angels. No Winter Wonderland. No Fas. No La La La Las.

I would have ended it right there and then if it weren't for a piece of advice a wise friend once gave me: "Never dump a girl who's smoking hot."

So when Ella was born, I was terrified she wouldn't want to sing. I could live with her if she had an extra toe or a tail or something, but if she didn't have the desire to sing—well, I just didn't know what I'd do. But around 4 months of life, Ella began to coo. Then the coos turned to noise. The noise turned to gibberish. And, eventually, the gibberish turned into the Itsy-Bitsy Spider. It was the second most glorious moment of my life.

The first happened on one fun car ride home from our sitter's house, when it was just the two of us. As I said, I'm always singing in the car and, often have a preference for TV theme show songs—Who's the Boss, Perfect Strangers, Silver Spoons, etc. My favorite is, of course, the theme to Cheers. It's welcoming, catchy and universally known, so it'd get the most turns in my singing rotation. So much so that Ella started to call it "Dad's Song."

On this particular car ride in late April, Ella requested "Dad's Song," so I obliged. About two lines of lyrics in I heard a soft voice coming from the back seat. I quieted down and the voice continued, "where everybody knows name … and they are glad you came." It was the sweetest, most unexpected gift she had ever given me—and she didn't even realize it. I'd never purposely taught her the song, she just learned it from listening to me. It was amazing. So I joined back in with a giant smile and a teary eye … and we sang it fourteen more times, or approximately the distance between our sitter's house and ours.

To my wife's credit she's never discouraged Ella. In fact, there's been a dynamic shift in my wife's DNA that's allowed her to (gulp) start singing (and she sings really well!). Maybe it's Ella's sweet voice. Maybe my family harmonized a little better last Christmas. Or maybe she realized just how special it is to be a part of something I love. Whatever the reason, I don't care; I'm just glad she's one of us now (even if it is still in moderation).

So my worries were for naught and all is right in the world. Ella sings. My wife's a convert. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it does.

Anna has started to coo. (I love my family.)

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

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