Violet’s breakfast consisted of peaches and oatmeal, and before I sat down to feed her, I put on the latest episode of my favorite weekly music podcast. Instead of the usual roundup of new music releases, this week’s show had a theme: songs that make you cry. The producers asked listeners to email and call in, telling their personal stories of songs that bring them to tears, and the first one they shared was about a Louis Armstrong tune, a song about New Orleans. The show’s host read an email from a listener who was going to college near New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, and he told of helping to care for the victims in the storm’s aftermath, of watching the city attempt to rebuild itself from the ruins, and how Armstrong’s song embodies the emotional ups and downs of his experience. A touching story, but it did not leave me crying.
The next song surprised me because the song is by a relatively unknown band that Linda and I have loved for the past few years, and the song happens to be one of Linda’s favorites. The host introduced the song by playing the phone message left by the woman who called in her story. I listened to her as I fed Violet. I listened to her sad story, to her voice cracking with emotion, and I started to get misty. Then, Violet started crying. Hard. I pulled her out of her highchair and carried her outside onto the patio where after a few moments, she settled down. I checked her over for injuries, for a too-tight or a dirty diaper, or any other possible reason for her outburst but saw nothing obvious. Was the voice coming through the speakers responsible? We went back inside, and the crying started again, even more intense than before. The woman was finishing up her story, and I carried Violet over to the stereo, switching off the power. Within a minute, she was her smiling self again.
I thought about starting the podcast over again or replaying the section that was on when she started crying, but I didn’t want to set her off again. So, I’m still left wondering about the cause. Did she pick up on the emotion in the girl’s voice? Did she pick up on my emotional response? Maybe it was something simpler – a stray gas bubble or a piece of plastic on the highchair was pinching her. I don’t know, but I’d like to think that it’s one of the former two; that this morning I witnessed a beautiful thing called empathy beginning to grow within my daughter.
Hear the show for yourself at All Songs Considered