Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chapter 1 - The First Nine Years

You can see it in pictures when I was smallB a wispy-haired blond with pale blue eyes always looking off to the side as if listening for angels.  Oh, I wouldn=t have said so thenB just that perhaps it was the alone-ness that made me different.  For my first nine years we lived in the country, no other children close by, so I played mostly by myself with my dolls, building imaginary houses, making up tuneless songs with simple, rhyme-less words.  My childhood was otherwise as Anormal@ as anyone=s, or at least I thought so then.  My asthma kept me from being as active as some, but it was all I knew, so I didn=t mind. 
Daddy was my first Prince Charming. Stunningly handsome even now in his nineties, back then with his thick mane of black hair and dashing moustache he was aptly nicknamed AClark Gable.@  Tall and slender, too, he truly looked the part, especially when he donned his gray felt Homburg hat. It was post-World War II, and we were far from wealthy, but we had a home full of love, and my father provided for his family admirably by being a traveling salesman. I mostly respected (and probably a little bit feared) my father from afar, because he was so often absent-- and when he came home, the administrator of discipline!  I never doubted my father=s love for me, yet I constantly found myself seeking his approval.  I associate him with three things in my youth: ham radio, a new Buick company car every two years, and taking the family to church every Sunday.  
 I remember hearing about the church orchestra Daddy played in and directed before World War II took him off to the Civil Air Patrol, and some of my most vivid childhood memories take me back to adult choir rehearsal on Thursday nights. On Sunday mornings I would sit with an adult friend while Mama played the beautiful old pipe organ  and Daddy waved his arms in the choir loft above me, the two of them creating ethereal music for God’s ears. The Christmas cantatas they led still play in the soundtrack of my memory , as fresh as the pungence of the pine boughs we gathered on my grandfather’s farm to decorate the church the Saturday before Christmas.  I loved helping arrange the lights and red bows that adorned the stained-glass windows.
          My mother was my constant companion and caretaker, and as soon as I went to school so did she, as a school secretary and later a teacher. Mama got me up every morning and took me to school where she worked.  After the bell rang at the end of the day, I would join her in the office until her day ended.  Then we=d proceed home, sometimes stopping at the A&P for groceries.  I was her little helper-- whether it was putting Ablueing@ in the old wringer washing machine, running sheets and pillowcases through the Amangle@ or fixing us dinner on the big electric stove--until she tucked me in at night.
Today she would have been called a Asuper-mom,@ a liberated woman for the 1950s, because she did it all, from running the household day in and day out to driving her own column-shift Nash Rambler to work every day!  I=m sure I didn=t appreciate all she accomplished, because to me it was an embarrassment that my clothes, beautiful as they were, were homemade, as were our curtains and slipcovers and my dolls= clothes.  On top of all this, she helped look after her own parents and sisters, and kept my father and teen-aged brother happy.  And somehow she also  managed to entertain several of my cousins and an occasional neighbor=s child, once in a while taking  us all to Youth Fellowship or Vacation Bible School.
The other male in my life was my brother Charles, who was ten years old when I was born.  As with my father, then, I always admired him from afar, and he probably has no idea to this day how involved in his life I was.  Rather than being either my best friend or my arch-enemy, as often happens with siblings closer in age, my brother became my idol.  There=s an old black-and-white photograph (which Charles probably developed in his darkroom in our upstairs) that brings back such fond memories with me in my child=s rocking chair sitting beside my brother talking on his ham radio. 
When I was small, I had a vicarious adolescence through Charles.  I remember the excitement when he began to drive and polish his Acool@ cars in our driveway, and I had terrible crushes on his friends who came to our house. The music in our home didn=t fail to influence him.  I can still hear the haunting notes coming from his gleaming brass trumpet, the sound as graceful as the curves of the instrument.  Whether he was playing at church or in the high school marching band I must have beamed like the light flashing off the trumpet, I was so proud of my big brother!
I suppose I will never know which was the greater influence on my later yearsB the music that filled so much of my young life or the six years of piano lessons I was forced to take as a child.  Whatever the cause, I don=t remember a time when my head was not filled with music nearly every waking minute (and many sleeping minutes!).  Yet I do not consider myself an accomplished musician by any stretch of the imagination.  I can read notes on a page, yet if I ever knew much theory, most of it is lost to me now.  I have no gift for creating musical combinations or even playing an instrument.  My gift is an ear for harmony, and for the harmony of words.  Perhaps more than anything it was all those early years of going to choir practice with my parents.  Certainly, singing in choirs and musical groups has been my passion since my youth, and I have been privileged to sing with many excellent choirs under several gifted directors.  For all of these blessings of music God placed in my life, I shall never be able to express my gratitude, but most of all to my parents I wish to extend my deepest thanks.
“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” (Psalm 71:17)

READ: Proverbs 31:30, Proverbs 22:6
PONDER THIS: Take as much time as you need to think and write about your important familial relationships, the people you grew up around, and those that are important to you now. Try to see threads that have come together to make you the person you are today.


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