A Simple Decoration

When our oldest son, Robert, graduated from high school it was easy to choose a theme for his graduation party. Music! Music had been his life for all of junior high and high school. And he was going to the University of Arkansas to study music education. I ordered a cake and found this simple music note tree centerpiece. Silver and black, covered in music notes, it was the perfect addition to the table.

Music note tree.

After the party, I put the decorations away in the closet. No thought was given to them for the next two years until Rachel graduated. Even though Rachel would study special education in college, music had been a crucial part of her secondary education as well. At first, I kind of joked, “Hey. Wonder if I still have that music decoration from Robert’s party?” Once I found it, there was no question it would once again grace the table.

I knew it would be four more years before our last high school graduation. So, as I put things away after Rachel’s party, I was determined to hold on to that centerpiece. I placed it back in the closet, in the same box.

I would sometimes see it during closet clean-outs but was careful not to throw it away. Yes, I probably could have bought another one. But it would not be the same. A new one would not have been present at the other two graduation parties.

I chuckled this morning as the music-note centerpiece was pulled from the closet. It decorated the table for its third party. This one to celebrate the high school graduation of our youngest, Ryan (also a musician) and the college graduation of our daughter, Rachel. It was a beautiful day filled with family and friends, yummy snack food, and two delicious cakes.

After the party ended, I began to think about that centerpiece. I’ll readily admit that I am often sentimental over things which others might find simple or unimportant. This particular item could easily fall under one of those categories. So, why was I so determined to save it? What did it represent?

For me, a sappy mom whose kids are growing up way too fast here’s what I came up with:

  • Importance of music in our family
  • Commitment to education
  • Celebrating accomplishments
  • Love of family and friends
  • Support of siblings

None of those things are simple or unimportant. On the contrary, they are part of what makes this life so beautiful.

Our music note centerpiece may have reached its end, but memories of the celebrations it graced will continue to make me smile. Memories of my children’s accomplishments. Memories of family and friends who love us and took time to celebrate with us. ❤

An Old Friend

I love old friendships. You know the ones. Those which don’t seem to recognize the passing of time. Even if you haven’t seen each other in years, you pick up right where you left off. Memories of times past mix with the present, providing a comforting familiarity.

Sometimes music is like those friendships. Certain songs are stored in memory banks. Suddenly one plays, and I’m transported back in time. I can remember clearly a specific person, place, or time. In that sense, a song is like an old friend.

Last weekend I rehearsed with some oboe players for an upcoming studio recital. I’ve accompanied this studio for many years, and have become very familiar with the repertoire. After the rehearsal, I offhandedly referred to my accompaniment book as “an old friend.”

Today was recital day! Students were well prepared, some a little nervous. With the exception of one new piece this year, each song was pulled from my memory bank. I smiled as we began to play.

Yes, the students were different, but the music was the same. The notes and rhythms were familiar. The phrases were comforting.

Obviously, a book of music is not the same as a person. But as I played these familiar songs today, it felt as if I was visiting an old friend.

My seat during the recital. 🙂

Memories & Hymns

Some of my earliest memories of playing the piano in public are at church. I attended a small, country church as a child. On Sundays when the pianist was not there, the music director would come to get me out of Sunday school. “Ok, Kelley girl, which hymns do you know how to play?”

We would go over the list, making sure I was comfortable with each selection. After our short practice, it was time for the service. I’m not sure my exact age, elementary school, but I remember barely being able to see over the piano.

Who is this little girl? 😉

Thinking back to those early memories of playing, I don’t remember being nervous or afraid. I only remember being excited about the opportunity to play. The place and people provided encouragement and support. And it was fun!

Those early experiences lead to many more years of playing in churches. Different types of churches, services, funerals, weddings. Actually, I’ve spent more years playing piano in church than not.

Currently, I’m in one of those “not playing” times. Services have changed, much more involved and complex. Not that it’s a bad thing, just different. One that I don’t feel lead to do at this time. Maybe that will change in the future, who knows?

The simplicity of my childhood experiences is long gone. And although I sometimes miss that playing, I realize the important part remains. The music is forever part of my heart and mind.

The following is a short list of some of those early hymns:

  • Amazing Grace
  • In the Garden
  • Sweet Hour of Prayer
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Sitting here on my couch typing, I can hear them in my mind. I can feel them in my fingers. I can see the notes and words on the pages. Sometimes they flood my thoughts right when I need them. 🙂

I am grateful for the memories of these hymns. They are a powerful part of my musical and spiritual foundation.

“…speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19

What a Friend We Have in Jesus-Me playing in 2001. Arrangement by
Phillip Keveren

Best Shot

As I scanned the radio stations on my drive to school this morning, a song caught my ear. A perfect song for the day after a “snow/extreme cold” day off yesterday.

Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

I laughed upon hearing the intro. Immediately I am back in high school, performing in the school talent show with my friends. In case you’re wondering, our line-up also included Eye of the Tiger & Beat It!

Such a rebel. Look at those shoes! 😂

I love telling people I used to be in a rock band. Trust me, not as impressive as it sounds. 😉 But, oh, it was fun!

After this short trip down memory lane, my thoughts turned to the day ahead. These cold weather, inside recess, needing some sunshine kind of days are tough. Part of me wanted to be back under my warm covers, reading a book, puppy dog on my lap.

My sweet Poppy!

Yet there it was. This song. Taking me back in time, making me smile.

Refocused on the present, I found myself thinking, “Come on day! Give me your best shot. I’m ready for whatever you might throw my way!”

Although it was still too cold for outside recess, the sun did shine today. My face did not freeze during afternoon car duty. Honestly, I have no complaints about the day.

Maybe it was simply an easy day. However, I cannot help but think that one specific song on the drive to school affected my attitude. Music is powerful. Yes, even 80’s rock music. It helped me determine to give the day my best shot.

What about tomorrow? I might need to download some Pat Benatar to my Apple music playlists. It couldn’t hurt! 🎶😊🎶

https://youtu.be/x5kisPBwZOM

View from the Top of the Stairs

This week it is time for solo-n-ensemble rehearsals. High school students come to my home after school to practice for their upcoming competition. Currently, my piano is upstairs in an open loft area. So, while I was waiting for my last student to arrive I sat down at the top of the stairs.

I love looking down into the living room from upstairs. It provides an interesting perspective. The light is different. Seeing the space from above causes me to notice things I might otherwise overlook.

We have taken many photos from this angle over the years. Family photos, Christmas decorations, furniture rearranging.

My favorite pic from this vantage point was secretly taken by my daughter, Rachel. So many reasons to love this photo. The warmth from the Christmas tree and lighting. Playing music with my son, Robert, practicing Christmas Time is Here by Vince Guaraldi.

“There’s never a moment without music in our house.”

Rachel is not in the photo, yet she is in the center of the memory. I can picture her upstairs in her room, listening to us practice. What made her think to snap a picture? I’m not sure. However, the memory of playing this particular music with Robert might not be as clear if not for her thoughtfulness.

My view from the top of the stairs today isn’t nearly as exciting or memorable. Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize how much it connects with this photo from the past.

Rachel’s caption for her photo was, “There’s never a moment without music in our house.” Something I hope will always be said about our home.

Why was I sitting at the top of the stairs today? I was taking a rest from making music…waiting to make more.

Country Road

My daughter, Rachel, and I saw James Taylor in concert yesterday evening.  This was my sixth JT concert over the past 26 years, Rachel’s first.  I can truly say he never disappoints.  His songs are timeless and his sound seems to grow stronger and warmer with age-kind, genuine, personal.

Me and my girl!

Listening to his songs has a way of lifting my spirits.  Obviously, he did not write any of them for me. 😉 Yet, particular ones remind me of specific times and places from my own life.  Country Road immediately comes to mind.  Hearing it again last evening…beautiful.         

I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road

Just the thought of this song makes me smile.  Hearing it live and in person transports me back to my childhood.  Riding my bike and going for walks down our country road.  Always with the specific instructions, “Do not go past the red clay hill!”  

This winding road from my parents’ house to the highway is only about ¼ of a mile long.  As a kid, however, it seemed much longer, mysterious.  Thick forest on each side of the pavement made for limited visibility.  Any rustle in the leaves had the power to trigger our wild imaginations.  Although there have been rare sightings of bears and big cats in the past, I’m certain most of our unexplained noises came from birds and lizards.

I walked down that road many times for many reasons.  Playing with my cousins, getting some fresh air, eating too much Thanksgiving dinner, spending time with a special aunt or a friend.  Walking, talking, running, riding…a foundational place in my growing up. 

Some things have changed over the years.  The forest thinned.  A few houses now scattered in the woods, visible through the trees.  No more red clay hill.  Yet, there continues to be something special about taking a walk down that road. 

Memories may fade over time.  Great songwriters have the power to bring those memories back to life.  Singer/songwriters like James Taylor.  Songs like Country Road. Take a listen. https://youtu.be/2Dsph5uikX0

Pieces of Your Heart

Grandparents are special people. My grandparents were an essential part of my childhood. Spending time with them was important. As a child, you don’t really think about losing them. You imagine they will be part of your world forever. Then you become a young adult, or in my case, a high school student and that idea is shattered.

When my Grandpa Mahar died, it was very sudden. Early on the morning of July 4th, he woke up before anyone else, sat down in his favorite chair, and did not wake up again. We had seen him the day before. The family would be gathering on the 4th to celebrate. How could he be gone?

I mostly remember shock and tears from that day, almost thirty-five years ago now. The reality of my mom losing her dad brought a new perspective on the frailty and brevity of life on this earth. And it was made even more difficult because there had been no chance to say goodbye. This seemed especially hard for my mom and her siblings.

This was not the case for my own children with their first loss of a grandparent. Before my father-n-law passed away, we knew our time was limited. Watching as death approached was not easy, but we found comfort in having time to say goodbye. He will have been gone for three years this coming week, and we miss him more with each passing year.

One circumstance is not easier than the other, just different. Grief is present in both. We hang on tight to memories. We look at photos, share stories, cling to anything that reminds us of the person we lost. And as soon as we think our grief is fading, a birthday, holiday, or other event brings it right back to the forefront.

Sometimes the grief catches us off guard, and we are encompassed by unexpected emotions. How do we respond? That depends on the person, for we are all different. But here are a few personal thoughts:

When tears well up
Let them fall
When your heart aches
Let words flow
When a friend is near
Lean on them
When feeling motionless
Take one step
When tempted to forget
Remember
For that memory
Is a piece of your heart

A memory of my Grandpa Mahar: He is wearing overalls and telling me if I do him a favor, he will dance at my wedding. 😉

A memory of my father-n-law: He would always bring me a box of See’s candy when traveling to California. We both had quite a sweet tooth. 🙂

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4