Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Little boxes


As of this week, "Little Boxes," by Malvina Reynolds, is Lucia's favorite song. Reynolds wrote the song in 1962 as a criticism of suburban sprawl and the most mundane aspects of middle class values. Pete Seeger's cover of "Little Boxes" is probably the most popular. Here are Reynolds' lyrics:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf-course,
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into business,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

--Malvina Reynolds

When I play the song on the guitar for Lucia, I'm tempted to make the "little boxes" relevant to the modern-day townhouses popping up all over our neighborhood: "There's a beige one, and a beige one, and a beige one, and a BEIGE one...." However, I suspect that the different colors are what Lucia likes best about the song. Warning: this song is an earworm.* Once you get it stuck in your head, it's hard to change tunes. Speaking of earworms, MotherReader is completely to blame for introducing me to Bowling For Soup's "1985". In her defense, it's a good song. Still, my brain has been chewing on it since March.

While I'm singing "Little Boxes," it's easy to think, "Other people may live in little boxes, but I don't." Hah. Throughout my 35 years, I've blended in sometimes and other times have stuck out. Many of times I've stuck out have been miserable. The one week in 6th grade in which I wore designer jeans like "everyone else's" designer jeans. By the end of the week, there was some whispering and jeering about how I'd worn the same pair of jeans every day (I had). I snidely told them, "No, I have three other pairs of the same kind of jeans in my closet." They believed me. They actually believed me. I had nothing but contempt for them. I also felt a little sorry for myself (as if from a distance) because I'd wanted to blend in so badly.

Times changed. I had peers who thought it was cool to like bands that no one else knew about. Once those bands found commercial success, any one who learned about the bands afterward was just following the mainstream.

Yawn. "Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same." But hey, I'm fine with living in a little box, as long as it's my little box, and I get to decorate it how I like. I guess I'm not heading for the gated community up the hill any time soon.

*I just found out that the Portuguese term for a song getting stuck in one's head is called chiclete de ouvido, or "ear chewing-gum."

14 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Great song - simple but it bites somehow - of course the last box of all is wooden and it gets buried in the ground or burnt in a furnace... but we wouldn't want to scare little Lucia with that would we? Is tomorrow her birthday? Happy Birthday Lucia!

Lady K said...

What a cute song!

Sixth graders can be SO cruel.

Schelle said...

feeling decidedly made out of ticky-tacky at the moment... up at 3am to finish an assignment and trying to force my eyes to focus!

What happened to the matroshka (sp?) post? I read it in Google Reader & came to comment, but it's not here! I have a beautiful set of Russian dolls painted in blue and silver with snow scenes, a girl with a long golden plait and rabbits & robins... but I admit I thing yours are nicer... I can't wait to hear how you use them to tell a story! Hey, if the post is missing, does that mean I can suggest a location for the story & get my own saint (having no competition...)? Tomorrow is my morning for teaching, so how about a classroom setting? I always used to love it when we had a storyteller come to our school ;D

ah well, back to the grindstone... I could really use the intercession of a personalized saint right now :P

Schelle said...

*think* - I did say I was having trouble seeing the screen, but I didn't need to go and prove it!!!

goddess of clarity said...

Wow, beige houses and earworms and 6th-grade traumas all in one post: it's like you're inside my brain!

Seriously, the beige bit made me laugh out loud. Which was bad since I'm reading this in my office alone in earshot of like four co-workers who already think I'm losing it this week.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Goddess: Thanks! Some days, it's all one can do to pack everything into one post,and other days, nada. So it goes.

Schelle: Here's the link to the matryoshka dolls: http://saintsandspinners.blogspot.com/2005/05/storytelling-with-russian-nesting.html

Lady K: I'm dreaming of the good 6th graders who turn things around. One queen-bee can make the difference between school as hell or school as a mildly pleasant purgatory.

YP: Good memory! Thank you very much.

HipWriterMama said...

Hey, where is the audio of this song? Love the lyrics.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

HipWriterMama: Here is a link to a snippet of the live version sung by Pete Seeger.

HipWriterMama said...

Thanks! Now I've got the song in my head. Funny!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

HipWriterMama: I just found out that the Portugese version of "earworm" is chiclete de ouvido, or "ear chewing-gum."

MotherReader said...

Well if I had to put a song in your head at least it was the very cool "1985". Next stop "Year 3000." Once you hear that you won't be able to think of anything else.

Oh, and the band thing reminded me that I saw a great T-shirt online. It reads: This is a band shirt but you're not cool enough to know which one.

Lone Star Ma said...

My daughter has been fortunate enough to know a very nice Queen Bee, but she still is as much a fish out of water as I have always been. I have asked her if it would just be better if we had raised her to be normal many times and she always says no, that she wants to think. Hard world.

:: Suzanne :: said...

oh I do like the ear chewing gum image much better than the earworm image. I see the imagery of words whether I want to or not. The chiclet is much cuter.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Susanne: I agree! I like the phrase too because it's so idiomatic. "Earworm" is just, well, wormy.