"Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows. Lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose." --from "The Rose" by Gordon Wills, sung by Bette Midler
My mother had an amazing voice and she love, love, loved to sing. I remember how she'd hum her favorite hymns as she washed dishes or ironed my dad's shirts, and especially when she sat at her sewing machine. I'd watch her lean into the lever with her knee, pushing the fabric past the needle, bubble-tipped straight pins clenched firmly between her lips. I always worried she'd accidentally swallow one but she never did. And she never stopped humming.
I don't know if I inherited my mother's voice, but I'm pretty sure my love for music came from her. From the time I was a small child, I'd volunteer to sing in church and auditioned for school musicals. At the age of twelve my older sister Mary Beth gave me a beginner guitar, a thing my other sister Nita never forgave her for because I considered that guitar a license to sing all the live long day. Singing brought me joy. It brought Nita to tears, and not in a good way.
When I created the character of Isabelle, wife to the Rev. Henry Carter and mother to four daughters in THIS I KNOW, I gave her my own mother's beautiful voice. And then I took it away from her when Mrs. Carter suffers an unbearable loss. I wanted the reader to feel her deafening silence, how grief not only stills our hearts, it will come like a thief for your tongue and the soul that feeds it. But also how music just might be the one thing to make you feel whole again.
The other day I drove home from a literary event feeling exhausted. Not just from a busy day, but from the heaviness of recent heartbreaking news, the dreadful political noise, and not knowing how to rise above the ennui resulting from day-to-day information overload. I have so much to be happy about--a new book coming out, living where other people vacation, and exceptional good health. And yet here I was, sighing as I exited the 101 toward the Pacific coast.
I turned on the radio hoping to cheer myself up. I surfed from channel-to-channel without landing on the perfect song. I turned it off again, choosing the hum of tires on pavement over bubblegum pop. It was in the silence that I heard my mother whisper, "Come on, Donna Sue." That's what she called me when she was being playful. "Sing us a song."
And so I did. I sang, nay, belted out a rendition of The Rose that cleared the fog from my lungs and the dread from brain. I sang it three times until, pulling into the driveway, I felt an imaginary pair of wings unfold as I emptied myself from the car and floated into the house.
What about you? Is there a song that lifts you out of a funk? What was your relationship with music growing up?