Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Mom’s Best Gift



My mom’s been gone just a little over five years now.  A few days ago I put a CD in my computer   She plays. “Beautiful Days”; a song she learned at the tender age of 11.  Her long gray hair is pulled back in a ponytail and as she sways back and forth on the organ bench, her arms pull the bellows in and out as fingers fly over unseen black and white keys, a look of pure joy on her face.  It’s a mesmerizing sight. 
and in a moment, on my screen, is my mother as she sits in front of her Yamaha organ, in a pair of slacks and her signature white short sleeved blouse, accordion strapped to her chest.

It was February 28th, 2001 and she indulged me in my request to videotape her while she played the accordion and then the organ.  She wasn’t very comfortable about the idea of doing it, but went along with me anyway.   I was honest with her in my reasoning in that I’d listened to her play my whole life and couldn’t imagine that one day I’d never hear her play again. The tape was my insurance policy against that happening.

The day was cold and I’d gone to their house and set up my camcorder on the tripod in their living room.  We chatted for a while and had a bite to eat and a pot of tea.  It was a delightful afternoon. Afterwards, I played the video only once, to insure all had worked and then put it away.  I didn’t think to put it on a CD and share it with family members until after her death in 2009.    

When she started playing, her instructor first taught her the classics, telling her once she mastered those, she’d be able to play anything the rest of her life.  On the screen she moves now through those classics to popular favorites like “Harvest Moon.”  I’m back in elementary school, hearing the notes when I reach the end of the driveway after walking home from school.  Entering the kitchen from the back porch, I’d find her perched on the kitchen table edge, eyes closed, swaying to the music.  Again, that look of pure joy on her face.

I never tire of watching her.   She always played this large and cumbersome instrument with a measure of grace and lightness that defied reason.   The left hand playing chords as the right hand carries the melody.  Knowing she never learned to read music and that it’s all done by ear and memory only adds to her mystique. 

She flows into a song, mentioning it was her parent’s song.  When she’s done I ask her if she remembers the title and her voice breaks…“I Never Knew I Could Love Anybody Like I'm Loving You”, and then continues softly with the main verse…

“I never knew I could love anybody,
Honey, like I'm loving you;
I couldn't realize what a pair of eyes and a baby smile could do.
I can't sleep, I can't eat,
I never knew a single soul could be so sweet,
I never knew I could love anybody,
Honey, like I'm loving you.”

And in a moment, I remember my grandmother never referring to my grandfather as anything but her ‘Honey”, and it all comes together. 

The last song she plays on the accordion is my favorite, “Twilight Time.”  In hindsight, I think it may have been one of her favorites as well.

After a short break, she switches to the organ and the music I remember her playing most, at night, as I lay upstairs in my bed before I fell asleep begins.

Her back is to the recorder now as she flows through “I Get Misty”, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do” and “Apple Blossom Time”.  I made a collage of family pictures to scroll as she plays – her and her parents, as a young girl with her brother, through her marriage and us kids growing up and her grandchildren.  It’s bittersweet to listen to her play this lovely background music as a slideshow plays of her life.  My favorite is her standing at a ledge at the Grand Canyon, a lifelong dream of hers and as beautiful as the canyon itself. 

I didn’t know that five short years after making this tape, she would have a traumatic brain injury.  For three years following until she passed, the music was gone as all her efforts were put into rebuilding other areas of her life and maneuvering her injury on a daily basis. 

I didn’t play the tape during those three years, instead waiting until after she passed for the time it was purposed for.  And a few days ago, as every time I play it, it serves the purpose.  Some days I just watch the screen and enjoy the sight and sound of her.  Other days I’ve just put it on while I was cleaning or writing, as background music.  I’ve even found myself walking towards the living room a time or two to request a song before I remember she’s not there.

My mom gave me a lot of gifts over my lifetime, but I've come to cherish that gift of her indulgence that cold February afternoon most of all.  Her music, the memories it holds for me and the joy it gives me each and every time I hear it.  

16 comments:

  1. It's great to read about how much this means to you, and I'm really glad you thought to do it.

    <3 Abe

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it and got to hear her play as well. I'm so grateful I did it now too. :)

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    1. Thank you Sandra. Thought of you and your mom a lot as I wrote this.

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  3. Touchy, very touchy, Amy. I enjoyed reading this.

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    1. Always honored to have you stop by and comment Amit. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. What a lovely tribute, Amy, and what a lovely woman your mom was. How wonderful that she got such joy out of playing, and that she passed that on to you. It was so prescient of you to make that recording, and such a precious thing to have now. I wish I had something similar to keep my mom with me. You will always have and treasure this gift from her!

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    1. Definitely something I cherish Elaine. (And I learned a new word today - prescient.) Thanks for the compliment. :)

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  5. That is a fabulous keepsake. How wonderful that you can still hear your mother's music.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Joyce - it's a treasure. Always a pleasure to have you stop by. (You wold have loved her quiet sense of humor as well!) :)

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  6. My mom passed away in 2010 so it will be four years in June. Friday I was with her, with my new puppy, like nothing was wrong. Saturday morning she didn't wake up. So sudden and jolting. I miss her of course, as you miss your mom and the special, unique things that you did with her. I'm sorry for your loss and so glad that you had graceful times with her before she died. www.dianeweidenbenner.com

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    1. Diane, my heart aches for you. Such a sudden loss must be quite difficult to bear. I trust you have memories of your mom to help you as time passes. I hope what I had with my mom brought you some comfort.

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    2. I still miss her, for sure, thanks for your kind words. Yes, your post was very encouraging and reminded me to think again upon the enjoyable times I had with my own mom. There is such blessing and wisdom in aging. We just need to remind ourselves of that sometime.

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    1. Thank you so much - I'm glad you enjoyed it and honored to have you follow!

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  8. How wonderful to keep those fond memories on CD!! Beautiful post.

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