Mom and music were like peanut butter and chocolate – just meant to go together. I have great memories of Mom and music:
She would lead all of us in singing on car trips. Two of my favorite car songs with Mom were: “Horsey, horsey, on your way, we’ve been together for many-a day, so let your tail go flip and your wheels go ‘round – Giddy-up! We’re homeward bound!…” and the other one, “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck…”
I think one of her most favorite songs to sing was made famous by John Denver. “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” When Mom asked me to accompany her on several songs because she wanted to make a recording of her singing for all of us kids to have, I rolled my eyes on the inside. I feel guilty and ashamed about that now, especially since I do not have that tape any longer. Someone else has it. What a wonderful gift to leave to her children, and I now understand her feelings expressed in a little sadness that day, that her children would not appreciate her gift…until she was gone. On that tape, Mom wanted to be sure that “Grandma’s Feather Bed” was a part of the repertoire. If only I could hear her sing that song once again.
She insisted that all of her children play a musical instrument. I played the French horn and the piano, and she tried to get me to play the organ, but the organ was Angela’s calling, not mine. She attended countless band concerts and musicals and choir concerts and recitals – with five of us taking lessons and being involved in music all through school, she kept busy. She and Dad sacrificed so much in order for us to learn music, to learn how to read music, to appreciate the music. Driving to Wichita to give us piano lessons with Aunt Patsy, paying for hundreds or thousands of lessons in Hutchinson for us, carting us to recitals and contests, forcing us to practice when it would have been easier to have some peace and quiet and no complaining… When they bought a brand new French horn for me, I didn’t quite grasp the sacrifice. When they bought a new piano and organ for me and for Angela, we didn’t quite understand how important it was to them. If only I had my French horn and my piano again, I would appreciate it all the more. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…
Every time we came home to Grandma’s to visit, my Mom would INSIST that my girls sing a special at church, and she didn’t care what Pastor Gary said, her granddaughters were going to sing a special at church. She loved hearing them sing, “Jesus, name above all names, beautiful Savior, glorious Loh-oh-oh-ohrd…” And she taught them a song at Christmas about rocking baby Jesus and bought them dolls to act it out and then made them sing it for her Women’s Missionary Society Christmas Tea. She loved hearing the girls sing. Funny thing…she used to do that to me when I was little – insist that I play the piano for company, for church, for some special thing. “No” was not an acceptable answer. How I hated being paraded and put under pressure. But if I had just one more opportunity now, I would play whatever she wanted me to play.
Mom loved to sing with her sisters. It was probably one of her greatest joys in life. I LOVED reunions when the Aunts and Mom would sing while Aunt Patsy played the piano, or they would sing acapella, and it was always the “old” music, most of it unfamiliar to me, but it was like heaven to hear their three part harmonies and Mom sang low – alto and even tenor sometimes. The last time I heard them sing together, Mom’s heart and lungs were beginning to fail and she struggled to breathe deeply in order to hold those notes, but she wasn’t going to stop singing. Tears could not be held back as I took in every note, knowing it might be the last time my ears would receive this gift. And it was the last time.
Mom loved the Sweet Adelines and any barbershop quartet and she loved the Gaithers and Dino and when Verna and Cindy played duets at church, and she loved hearing her sister Patsy play that song about the bells, and she loved listening to Karissa sing, “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” and she made us watch “The Lawrence Welk Show” and we listened to the Reader’s Digest Christmas albums every day in December and when I was grown, she bought tickets to concerts in Hutchinson and took me to them because she knew Dad wouldn’t want to go, but she loved attending those concerts – sometimes solo artists, sometimes instrumental small groups, but always entertaining. She was so excited when Sherrie Owen would come to town to visit family, and Mom would always beg her to sing at church – another special that needed to be sung. She loved hearing my sister on the organ and insisted that we play piano/organ duets whenever we were together at church. She directed the church choir for several years, and I will never forget the tradition of the choir walking into the sanctuary each Sunday, beginning the service with,
The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord is in His holy temple,
Let all the earth keep silent. Let all the earth keep silent, before Him.
Keep silent, keep silent, before Him.
Mom taught us all what “reverence” meant with that song.
Our church had quiet time each week – a Quaker tradition. It was spontaneous and the pastor ended the quiet time when he felt it was time, led by the Holy Spirit. Quiet time was a time to worship in silence, or for anyone to share a prayer or a testimony or a scripture verse…or a song. Mom did that more often than not. She was never one to not have anything to say, but she was one of the few who would break out into song. One of my favorite memories was of her singing, “He Touched Me.” Ah, if I could only hear her sing that one once again.
I am grateful today for the gift Mom gave to me, the love of music. All kinds. Well, except opera. She never gave me that gift.
I am grateful for my childhood, filled with music.
I am grateful for all of the lessons and the old upright with the yellowed keys that was replaced by a brand new Yamaha that carried me through high school and for the Holton Farkas French horn that was so shiny and new.
I am grateful for the memories.
And I am grateful that Mom didn’t stop singing, and I’m pretty sure she’s singing right now.