Exploits, Small in Scale
Teletubbies and Jimi Hendrix, All In One Post

Feeling the Music

I remember Charlie with that exact same look on his face when he was a toddler.

Jim has a sixth sense for Charlie's internal states and moods and always has one eye on the rear view mirror when driving with Charlie in the back seat (whereas Charlie seems irked by what seems like such scrutiny on my part). In the car on the way to Jersey horse country Saturday morning, Charlie started crying hard. Jim immediately said, 'hey pal, how are you?'

Charlie had been playing a Wiggles album on his iPad, 'Wiggle Bay.' He used to have the video -- it's about the Wiggles in a beach setting having the usual silly adventures with lots of singing and dancing (c'est Wags, c'est bon, etc.) -- and Charlie had been playing the opening song over and over. Then he let the music go on and on. I was listening and remembering watching various parts of the video with Charlie years ago when he started crying.

Memory pangs of what was and now wasn't?

The acne on his nose?

Jim's and my vigilance levels went up several notches and we both took note of how many more exits we had to pass before getting off the highway. It took a few requests, but Charlie handed me the iPad and I turned off the Wiggles and turned on 'Jazz and the Abstract Truth' with Oliver Nelson and Eric Dolphy. It's a favorite of Jim's and Charlie has listened to it in the past. Just sounds and rhythms changed everything in the car and we proceeded to the general store to get Charlie his habitual piece of carrot cake and thence to the gravel parking lot.

He was smiling by then and eager to get on his bike. As it was in the 70s, there was no need for yellow jackets and really not skull caps or heavy gloves, but Charlie preferred both (while being ok with Jim not wearing his matching heavy gloves). They did 14 miles and 6 later at home and I made soy sauce chicken and butterscotch pudding (the latter on a total whim), not that Charlie ate any of those.

As I stirred the milk into browned butter and sugar while Jim and Charlie both took a much-needed rest I thought about how it's not just that music reflects Charlie's feelings and possible mental states. Very often it seems there is no filter at all between the music and what Charlie is feeling; that he can't screen out whatever the music is making him feel and it all just comes out and he is... paralyzed? to change it -- maybe doesn't realize at that point that he can.

Charlie went to sleep listening to another favorite thanks to Jim, jazz violinist Sugarcane Harris.




We used to have a music box that played The Entertainer (Scott Joplin) that would make Rufus cry, but he would keep on winding it up. There's a pretty melancholy streak to ragtime, I think, and he was drawn to it. He was only 4 or 5 at the time. I think he emotionally links to music (and replayed words) very strongly. Maybe because the emotional links we get from grammatical structures aren't there for him?


Sometimes it is, I think, a little like some people may watch a sad movie to help themselves cry and get out emotions that are built up anyway( if only in a bio-chemical sense), though it may be for the best not to let it go on for too long if you know he's prone to a downward spiral with it. Music that does this is usually too intense and close to my real emotions to work in a helpful way for me, but I have a certain number of "sad fantasies" that I will think on in order to cry therapeutically at certain times.


This is so interesting. I'm glad he started feeling better.

Right now my son Greg starts crying whenever he hears the old Pingu theme song (which his twin brother keeps finding on YouTube). He keeps singing it and crying until I can distract him. One thing that will cheer him up is the Wiggles singing "Oh, Holy Night".
Getting outside and moving around also helps, as it seems to with Charlie.

Kristina Chew

@Cori, emotional links / grammatical structure / music -- I am meditating on all this. Charlie likes blues but had a very big fixation, and then over-reaction, once to Louis Jordan -- I think he might have the same response to ragtime as rufus!

@Ashmire, That smile on Charlie's face in the photo really came just a bit after he had been crying in the car. I think it could well have been therapeutic, cathartic?

@Alice, I worry about some of the Barney's songs effects on Charlie -- some of the ones with Baby Bop in particular! Just yesterday, Charlie asked me to take one Wiggles album off his iPad (we haven't heard the 'Oh, Holy Night' you mention; I wonder if Charlie might like it?). Yes, nothing like getting outside and moving -- in most cases, a good antidote for distress!


As a child before anyone had a diagnosis for me, my word for what others now usually call "meltdowns" actually was "Catharsis". I think learning how to have a good cry or let it out a little at a time before it builds to such a destructive level has been a good thing for me.

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