A strict father, though one who exercised a parent’s hypocritical initiative frequently, he never let her watch television. And his list of approved-for-her movies included only three titles: Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and The Lego Movie. She fell asleep during the first two, and, much to his chagrin, she lacked the context–not to mention the capacity for abstract thought–requisite to enjoy the third.
But every once in a while he would hear her say something that beckoned the playing of a song. Not just a song, but a music video. This evening was no different.
Instinctively these days, she knew to flip up the paper-thin seat cushion, so as to not ruin anything if she spilled, before assuming her oddly favorite eating position–one that had the left-half of her body sitting on the chair, while the right-half stood on the creaky hard-wood floor.
“You’re the greatest, daddy,” H- said, much to his delight. “You’re the greatest, not mom.”
“Hey!” he said firmly, not wasting time on a crescendo, “that’s not true H-. You’re mom’s the greatest, too. I’m the greatest dad, and she’s the greatest mom. Understand?”
“You’re the greatest dad and mom’s the greatest mom,” she recited.
“That reminds me of a song H-. Have I ever played R. Kelly’s “World’s Greatest” for you? The song he wrote about the boxer Muhammad Ali for the movie Ali?” he asked, making his way over to the laptop.
“World’s greatest?” she asked, in kind.
“Yeah. I didn’t think so. It’s a good one, just give me a sec to pull it up,” he said, trying to remember if the video contains anything a three year old shouldn’t see. “Okay. Here it is.”
“Is it the rainbow song?” she asked.
“No, it’s not the rainbow song,” he answered, chuckling as he tried to remember what past video had a rainbow in it.
Like most R. Kelley videos, there was a touch of a melodrama before the music began. Finally the music started. Memories and feeling flowed as Kelly sang, “I am a mountain. I am a tall tree, oh-oh-oh, I am a swift wind, sweeping the country.” Searching for any sign of understanding or enjoyment on her face, he couldn’t help but get caught up as the song built to the chorus. Soon he found himself singing along.
“If anybody acks you who I am, just stand up tall, look ’em in the face and say-ay-ay-ay-ay-ee: I’m that star up in the sky. I’m that mountain peak up high. Hey, I made it. Mmm. I’m the world’s greatest.”
“How ’bout-” she began.
“I know, I know, you want the rainbow song,” he interrupted, breaking from the song.
“How ’bout you not sing it, so I can hear it?” she finished.
“Oh,” he said, laughing. “I suppose I can try.”