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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You Are My Sunshine


When I was a child, the conclusion of every family gathering closed with my grandfather, my father and his younger brother serenading us in three-part harmony with “You are My Sunshine.”  It was the first adult song I learned.  I knew the lyrics by heart by the time I was seven.  Their harmony was wobbly, at times, but it was touching to see them stretch their arms around each other and sing, smiles plastered wide across their faces.  It was devastating when my uncle died of cancer before he was 40.  With his death, the close relationship that held the three of them in their harmonic accord was, tragically, broken.  I only remember my father and grandfather singing “You are My Sunshine” one more time; it was when my grandfather turned 80.  I was in my twenties.  In a pathetic kind of optimism, I practiced and practiced that song just in case they did sing it -- just in case they asked for a volunteer to lend a voice to their duet.
It is only now, at the other end of the telescope of time that two things occur to me.  First, I realize that, by preserving their parts in a duet, leaving my uncle’s part untouched, they were leaving room for his memory.  Second, I wonder why on earth, with all that prep time I put into it, why didn’t I simply ASK them if I could sing along?  
All of this reflection was prompted by a television commercial I heard today; the music accompanying the hawking of some product or another was the sacred, “You are My Sunshine.”  The lyrics and sweet melody often have the effect of moving me to tears. However, I was so startled to hear it in that venue that tears were not on the horizon.  Instead, I was left wondering if my father might like to sing the song with me.


  1. Wow....always amazing to gain a new small bit of history about my Dad, as well as Uncle & Grandfather. Love to read your thoughts.....

    1. We share both blood and history in many unaccountable ways!

  2. I usually sit quietly and read these memories and enjoy what I feel is amazing stories and adventures without comment, but this one hit home. When I lived in Montclair shortly after my Father passed away as indicated in your memory, my Mother used to work on her sewing machine with me at her feet. She taught me that song. I must have only been 5 or 6. I remember her teaching me to sing it while she sung a different verse. Not her type of music, but it must have been strong in her mind to pass it on to me. She never explained why. I am so happy to find the origin.
    Can't wait to sing it with my Sons today.
    David Evans

    1. Your father held his part of the trio with gusto, harmony and spirit.