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Oh Mom, I would say. Oh, Mother the exasperation and disgust would absolutely drip from my voice but I would go, dragging my reluctant feet.
She would be so enthusiastic. She would say, Now I want you to sing this alto part for me. I hated that because, even though I was small, I knew that alto
Why do I have to always sing alto? Why cant I sing bass?
Because your voice hasnt changed.
Why does my voice have to change? Did your voice change?
No, my voice didnt change, but yours will, and I dont really have time to discuss this. Just sing alto because it sounds nicer with soprano.
But I want to know why my voice has to change? Did Dads voice change?
Yes, your fathers voice changed long before I knew him.
How do you know his voice changed if you werent there?
Because all mens voices change.
Did Jarys voice change?
No, womens voices dont change.
But that doesnt seem fair. Why should boys voices change and not girls?
Because thats the way God made us, thats why.
Oh. Why didnt you just tell me that to begin with?
|Isnt that just the prettiest song you ever heard?|
I played my role halfheartedly at best. I had learned that the quickest way back outside was to learn my part as rapidly as possible, but sometimes I just couldnt get into it and sang so poorly and was so sour faced and sullen that she would slowly close the book, pat me on the shoulder, and say, You go on back to your friends, now. Well do this some other time. She didnt say it with anger or even resentmen and I dont know how many times it happened before I noticed that when I went back outside, I didnt hear the piano or singing any more that day.
It wouldnt have cost me much and it meant so much to her. I look back with regret and tears for my selfishness and insensitivity.
My mother played the piano and sang church songs. Sometimes now even after all these years when I can find a place where it is still and if I allow myself to be very quiet, in my mind I can see the old white house with the white curtains moving at the open windows; and through those open windows, I see those nimble fingers moving on the keys, and I hear her voice.
Come on, John, she coaxes. It will only take a minute. You sing alto it goes like this and Ill sing soprano. Isnt that the most beautiful song you ever heard? And in my mind I say, Im coming, Mom, and I rush to her with joy, because I know how happy it will make her.
From the book My Mother Played the Piano, by John William Smith, Howard Publishing, 1997. Copyright Howard Publishing, used by permission.
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