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Essay: Reclaiming Sinatra

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Lake Effect essayist Meagan Schultz reclaims a Frank Sinatra classic.

There are songs out there that we think of as "standards." They might have been recorded decades ago, but they still are part of our collective consciousness, whether they show up in the soundtrack of a movie, at a wedding dance or somewhere else.

We might have heard them so many times, in fact, that we've stopped paying attention to the words, almost allowing them to take on the role of aural wallpaper. Lake Effect essayist Meagan Schultz has reclaimed one such standard. 

I've been on a Frank Sinatra kick of late. Perhaps because I am having so much fun crooning to my daughter when the house is empty and no one else can hear me. (Sorry, neighbors.) It's during a particularly rousing rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" that I have a revelation. 

In my mind, this is THE quintessential father-daughter wedding dance song. Or maybe I watched Steve Martin and Kimberly William dancing in Father of the Bride one too many times circa 1992. In any case, I'm singing this to Zoe and thinking about how she and my husband will be dancing cheek to cheek, one day (at least!) 25 years from now, if she decides to marry. And I'm envisioning her in a beautiful white gown, candles aglow, all eyes on the bride waltzing with her father. And then ...

Whoa! Hang on! 

My mind goes here first: Why does this have to be her father's song? Why don't mothers of the bride get a dance? Why don't we get a song at the wedding? 

And then: Why wait 25 years? 

And so, I scoop her up. I let go of the image of 25-plus-year-old Zoe, breathe in the 5-month-old sweet baby smells and pull her cheek into mine. We spin around the room with Frank, both giggling at our reflection in the mirror, and suddenly the words have a new meaning. 

"The way you look tonight" becomes this present moment. This moment that is passing by so very quickly. I want to remember the laugh that wrinkles her nose and is actually more of a shriek at five months. I want to memorize the smile that lights up her face and expresses such pure, promise-filled joy. I don't want to forget her little hands that grasp at my shirt and cling to the wisps of hair around my neck.

One day, when I'm awfully low, I know I will get a glow just thinking of her and the way she looks tonight. 

Meagan Schultz is a mother and writer living on the East Side of Milwaukee with her husband and two young boys. She recently fixed up her basement and fashioned a small space for a writing desk where Legos are not allowed.