Have you ever heard “Taps” played on a kazoo?
Me either, until recently. The tune is about as mournful and haunting as a kazoo can be, and believe me, I’ve been haunted by a kazoo for a quite a few years now.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mom, eyes wild with the look young mothers get when they are torn between selfless love and wanting to eat their young.
She stood above my brother and me, we must have been around five and seven, and held up my brother’s plastic kazoo. My brother loved this kazoo like Mozart must have loved his grand piano. The sound wasn’t quite the same as Mozart’s, but my brother was young. He had years of fine tuning and practice ahead of him. I’ll never forget the sound of the scissors chomping through the plastic. I wanted to hide my eyes, but they were glued to my mother’s heartlessness as she sliced and diced until no tiny resemblance of “ka” or “zoo” was left.
We stared at the carnage.
My brother cried.
That’s why, when my son was old enough to blow, I bought him a metal kazoo. Given my family history, I didn’t trust myself with plastic.
For a short stretch of parenthood, I thought myself better than my mom, but a girl can only listen to so many stanzas of “The Wheels on The Bus”, especially when played on the kazoo.
I didn’t want to repeat the carnage, though. I wanted to spare my son years of pricy therapy, so I put away the scissors (metal cutters and sharp knives) and hid the kazoo.
We enjoyed happy and carefree living until I began packing for our road trip. Over spring break we were going to drive from New York to Georgia to visit family. When I went in search of luggage and tote bags, I discovered the long-hidden kazoo. Chuckling to myself, I buried it deep in the trash.
I blocked out all kazoo memories as we set off on our trip. Everything went smashingly until we wandered into a gift shop at the base of Stone Mountain in Georgia. The kids disappeared in search of a keepsake while I wandered around, astounded at the price of chotchkies. As I debated buying a new water bottle, my son ran up to me holding out his treasure.
“Mom, I found a new kazoo! I lost mine a long time ago and I miss it so much. Can I get it? Please.”
Just when I let my emotional guard down, mom guilt came in the form of a kazoo. I looked into my son’s excited face and said, “Yes, of course you can get it.”
Five hundred miles and four thousand verses later (alternating between “Amazing Grace” and “My Country Tis of Thee”), my husband looked at me and said, “Has anyone ever strangled a child while he was playing Amazing Grace?”
“You can’t.” I said. “It’s my fault. God is punishing me one shrill note at a time.”
That’s when my son switched to playing Taps.