I am sorry I cannot show you the photo that triggered today's musings. It's stuck in my head. I've kept it back there in my bank of memories nearly all my life. It shimmies to the front of my brain now and then, like it did this morning when my eyes first fluttered open at dawn's early light. It's an image of my mother and me, in the basement of our house on Old Clairton Road. We are folding laundry. I suspect I am pairing socks, since that was my usual task in those days. I'm finding mates and putting them in piles. When the counter is full I roll each pair and tuck the two socks into themselves. We are singing as we work, one of the many familiar songs of my childhood. My mother is young, her hair dark and her skin taught. Her fingers are long and slender. I watch them dancing with the fabric as she irons, smoothing and tugging and passionately pressing into crisp submission, coaxed where necessary with a sprinkling of water or a mist of of Niagara Spray Starch. I can hear the steam rising from her hot iron, smell the aroma of clean infused with warm. All the while we sing, or hum. Nothing premeditated. There was always music. I thank her for this. Because she always sang, she gave me unspoken permission to sing. And so it was. And so it is.
On this particular day my mother has asked me to match her note. Not in any condescending way. More as an exercise. I was singing along and I must have ended up either sharp or flat, or on the wrong note altogether.
"Here Cor, here's the note. Can you match it?"
I slid the pitch up to the note, matching hers.
"Good! Now try it again."
I started low, where she told me, and we slid together up to the pitch, hanging there. My lips turned up, altering the timbre of the note, but not the pitch. We were dead on. I hung there, her voice embracing mine on the pitch, for a few extra victory seconds.
My sense of pitch, flawed as it may be, is as strong as it is because she taught me to listen, then to imitate.
I laid in bed this morning, begging for the image to stay, but it sifted out into the daylight and I am old and she is gone.
I am thinking about my own children; about doing the same with them. I am thinking about their lovely voices, each of them unique and yet how beautiful they sound together. And I am thinking also about their children. Yesterday Calvin was singing "ABCDEFG, How I wonder what you are", a nice blend of two songs with the same melody. His pitch was surprisingly solid, especially for an 18 month old. His mama walked into the kitchen and began singing with him, their pitches matching each other. I felt my belly button pull up toward my heart, knowing that way leads on to way.
Today is Maundy Thursday, a Holy day. It is the day we remember that Christ introduced the sacrament to his disciples. It's the day He washed their feet. And it's the day He gave to those who follow him a new commandment.
"Love one another, as I have loved you."
I can hear him say this, and his voice becomes that of my mother. "Here," she says, "match my pitch."
And so this day begins with a prayer, that the Maker of all good things will tune my heart, and that my life, in the end, will be (on pitch) a song of loudest praise.