Drip drop drip drop
Up on the housetop
Pitter Patter Pitter Patter
On the window pane
Tap Tap Tap
Fall asleep on my lap
As we rock to the rhythm
of the falling rain
So when you hear the sound
of raindrops coming down
tapping on the window pane
Nothing is the matter
It’s just the pitter patter
of the gentle falling rain
Rain rain go away
come again another day
– “Drip Drop” by Kelli Willard
Two, three a.m. in the fall of 1994, & my turn to get up with Keenan to change his diaper, feed him a bottle of formula, & rock him back to sleep. This was my favorite of the lullabies on the cassette tape we received at his baby shower. The combination of loving the rain & loving him so tenderly as I held him, no matter how tired I was, I treasured & always will those moments that slipped by far too quickly.
That, & “Lollipop, Lollipop” which I sang to him every time I changed his diaper. His eyes would go wide (mirroring my own) as I paused at the end (sans “pop”) before finishing the refrain, “Ba-dum-bum-bum.” He would almost always squeal with delight.
When I was a child, the stereo in the living room was a big cabinet with the turntable in the middle. I remember how mom would keep me entertained by playing children’s lps with fairy tale narrations or fun songs. I would kneel down on the floor in front of the cabinet & rock myself back & forth as I listened, sometimes for hours.
My favorites, & the ones I remember most distinctly, were two songs by The Royal Guardsmen—“Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” & “Snoopy’s Christmas”. Mom may have played the entire album for me, but those are the two that have always stuck with me.
We didn’t know about autism at the time, but apparently rocking is fairly common. That’s the way I memorized another favorite song from my childhood, kneeling before my record player rocking & rocking as I listened over & over to “I’m Gettin Nuttin’ for Christmas” in order to memorize it.
In 1973, I memorized the entire soundtrack of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the same way, except that my bedroom was in the basement by then & the floor was hard tile over concrete instead of upstairs with a wood floor. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Still, why not include a song.
Keenan’s first favorite movie was “Mary Poppins” & he watched it constantly on VHS. Is there anything more fun than…,
…or more satisfying than…,
That continued until he met a young girl dressed in blue gingham. From that moment on, he was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” & everything Judy Garland.
(All three of us loved both Judy’s & Israel’s versions, so why not include both?)
Keenan came by his love of musicals honestly. Both Sandra (my wife, his mother) & I have always loved musicals. One of the first I recall seeing at the Plaza Theater in Watertown, South Dakota was “Sound of Music”. Mom & dad had six of us boys in tow as we waited in a line that stretched all the way down to the end of the block, around the corner & halfway down that side of the block. The theater was so full, there were not eight seats to be found together anywhere.
As for so many, this song was my introduction at the age of six to music theory:
After supper each night, mom began gathering all of us kids around either the piano or organ & we’d sing together for at least half an hour. Most nights we would beg her to play “Alley Cat” for us.
One evening I hadn’t been feeling well & asked if I could sit down. Mom agreed, & then was tickled pink when they started singing one of my favorites, “In the Garden”, & there I was with my eyes closed mouthing the words.
Mom started volunteering my older brothers—Rick, Steve & Terry—to sing in church. When I was in the fourth grade she decided to add me to the mix on “Dwelling in Beulah Land”. She liked my speaking voice, so I was to sing melody throughout except for the third verse which I was to narrate while the others hummed.
After we’d sung it once that way, she said, “Randy, hum on the verses, still sing melody on the chorus, & still speak the third verse.” Once we’d sung it that way, she added, “Randy, hum on the chorus, too.” We sang it one more time before she added the coup de grace by saying, “Randy, hum softly.”
My junior year of high school, when Terry didn’t make South Dakota All State Chorus or Honors Choir, she didn’t even inquire how I’d done. She just assumed that I’d not been chosen. (I had, for both. Terry missed out because the music had to be memorized & he didn’t do it.)
At any rate, this song has been an important part of my story (& my place in the family) ever since.
Keenan didn’t have brothers with whom to sing, but that didn’t stop him. We’d read the book together, so when “Wicked” hit Broadway he was all in. Before he got to fly to Chicago to see it with his aunt & uncle, he had every word of it memorized. He would spend hours in the bathroom making himself up as Elphaba after which he would record himself lip syncing.
Don’t believe me?
At his funeral, one month before what would have been his high school graduation, one of his friends from the cheer squad came home from college & sang “Defying Gravity”. We also had “For Good” played, a song which ever since has been my theme song. The words, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good,” are inscribed on the base of his grave marker.
I’ve given you three different versions from YouTube. The first is Kristin Chenoweth & Idina Menzel in their #OutOfOz series. The second is the 10th Anniversary performance at the 2014 Tony Awards performed by Jenni Barber & Christine Dwyer, staged & in full makeup. The third is from “Glee” (yes, all three of us were “Gleeks”) with Kurt (Chris Colfer) & Rachel (Leah Michelle). Keenan’s heroes included Judy Garland, Kristin, Idina, Chris, Leah, Megan Hilty, & Lady Gaga. He was one of the Lady’s “Little Monsters” &, yes, he was born that way.
Why so much about Keenan & his soundtrack? Because my musical tastes are highly eclectic & easily molded by those around me. But since his death just a little over ten years ago, it’s the music that meant the most to him that means the most to me.
He didn’t live long enough to see “Hamilton: An American Musical” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I don’t even know if he would have liked it. But Sandra & I both adore it. The song, “It’s Quiet Uptown” has joined “For Good” as a theme song for both of us.
Lin-Manuel said that he was trying to understand how to approach this moment with the death of Alexander & Elizabeth’s son, Philip. He tried to imagine what it would be like if he lost one of his own children & found he couldn’t go there, which was exactly what happened with me every time I began to worry something might have happened to either Keenan, Sandra, or both. It was unimaginable. And with that realization, he knew what the driving theme of the song had to be.
Which is why I am reduced to tears every time I hear it. That, & “For Good”.
I enjoy so many different genres & musical styles. But somehow I doubt any of them will hold a candle to anything that reminds me of him for the rest of my life.
That having been said, Keenan was a joyful, rambunctious kid & young man. We should not go out on such a sober note. He would never approve of such. So let’s end this with another of his favorites.
None of this touches on my years playing cello in orchestra & my love for all things Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, Gershwin (not to mention P. D. Q. Bach) & so many others. “Scheherazade” by Rimsky-Korsakov is one of my very favorites & so I include it here as a kind of bonus.
Ah, what the heck. Let’s throw in my nee namesake, “Knock, Knock” by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) as an extra bonus.
About the Creator
Retired Ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church having served for a total of 30 years in Missouri, South Dakota & Kansas.
Born in Watertown, SD on 9/26/1959. Married to Sandra Jellison-Knock on 1/24/1986. One son, Keenan, deceased.
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