|One of my mom's many watercolor paintings. She recently sold this one.|
Yesterday, I sat in my parents’ living room with about 30 other people. My dad was in his familiar position, proudly perched behind a video camera, and seated toward the back. I sat near him, on their rust-colored couch, leaning into the pillow next to me. The rest of the audience was seated in rows in front of me--some on my parents’ dining room chairs, and some in the folding chairs my dad had brought in from the garage. The stage (the opposite end of their living room) was furnished with a baby grand piano, and a table covered with gorgeous flowers.
My mom and her friends have created what they call Sunday Classics Club, where people who enjoy performing classical music get together once a month and take turns playing/singing for each other. This month, it was my mother’s turn. My dad, my aunt, and I listened to her sing four lieders (art songs) by Schubert, all in German, all with complicated melodies, and all of them obviously requiring hours and hours of practice and discipline. When it was over, my dad turned toward me, impressed and proud, but puzzled, and said, ”Why would anyone want to do that do themselves? Learn all that German and hit all those high staccato notes? So much work!” But one look in her eyes, and at her smile, answers that question. She loves it. She puts her heart and soul into it.
When I was little I remember sitting at her piano and singing hymns with her as she played. My favorite was “When He Cometh,” because one of its main phrases is “precious jewels”. "Jules" was my occasional nickname, so it felt personal. I remember sitting on the piano bench next to her, busting it out at the top of my lungs.
About six years ago, after being away for 16 years, John and I moved back to our hometown. Ever since we returned, my mom and I have done our best to get together for “singing lessons” once a week. She tries to teach me what she has learned in her many years of voice lessons. We do sirens and lip trills and arpeggios and scales and sing nonsense phrases. She teaches me songs in Italian, and German, and rarely, French. I will probably never perform them, and I can be a very slow learner (we repeat songs over and over again, sometimes with little progress), but it is always enjoyable. We take time to chat about life, as needed.
Unfortunately, we haven’t always been able to make these weekly dates. At first, I had two little boys, and babysitting didn’t always work out. When I tried to go without a sitter, it was hard to sing, worrying about the chaos and screaming in the other room. And then I had a third little boy, and a C-section, so we took a break for a while as I adjusted to being the mother of three. Eventually my mom and I got back into the routine, and relied on preschool, Dora the Explorer, and building blocks to keep the boy/s entertained.
And then cancer.
Instead of our weekly meetings at her piano, we greeted each other in hospital rooms, and doctor’s offices, and in my kitchen as I was leaving to take Andrew to the clinic. Instead of pouring herself into her art and her music, she poured herself into helping Andrew get well. She was always there, wherever, and whenever I needed her. She was there to do whatever would help. She prayed when I ranted. She believed when I doubted. She came when I called. She sacrificed three weeks of her life to come stay with us in Texas when Andrew went through radiation. When she would enter the room, I could feel relief in my body, and my pain decreased several degrees.
But, thankfully, we are back to singing again! and have been for the past year.
Yesterday, after the recital I walked around her house and met her friends. They greeted me and told me they had been praying for my Andrew, and that they receive regular updates from my mother. As I wandered from one room to another, I noticed once again the familiar prayers, the pictures, and the hopes that she has posted on her refrigerator, and her entry way, and even her bathroom mirrors. She is there for me, intervening for my family, even when I am unaware.
Today is her birthday, and I can not let the day pass without telling the world that I am so proud to be her daughter. She is wise and gracious, talented and artistic, soft hearted and kind. She loves God and she loves her family. I am so grateful to her.
Tomorrow is our singing lesson. I don't read music very well, and I'm still figuring out the German...so teaching me can be a lot of work. :) But one look in her eyes, and at her smile, and I can tell that she loves the time we spend together. And so do I.
Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.