When Music Travels
I've been thinking a lot about the adjustments the world is making to slow life down, focus on what is truly important, and the isolation that is trickling into our homes. I find there to be a lot of similarities from when I helped care for my mom during her Alzheimer's. As I've mentioned before, I willingly adjusted my life without losing my life to make the quality of her being the best it could be under the circumstances. Life became quieter as I removed myself from many activities, experienced both the action and absence of love and understanding, and witnessed how Alzheimer's is an isolating disease.
With a lot of practice, I chose to focus on the beautiful moments with my mom that slipped in and have become lasting gifts I reflect on often. One is a precious time right before she came down with an infection that put her in true isolation for several weeks. It was during one of my overnight visits when she asked me to sleep with her. And so I did.
As we were getting settled, she took something out of her bedside table. She took out a green case that held a harmonica, which was my grandfather's, her father's that he often played at his kitchen table. Imagine an Italian guy that you know who plays a simple instrument for enjoyment to express the joy in his heart. That was my grandfather. My mom inherited this harmonica, and she would often play it during her Alzheimer's. This night, sitting on the edge of her bed, she fearlessly played for me as her upper body swayed with her rhythm. A glorious offering, all in the lively self-made music of a simple harmonica—my Italian mother. Even when the soil of her mind was a mess, a firm root of cheerfulness embedded itself in her heart,
So I've been paying close attention to the Italians as their world twisted and turned before it became still. The singing from their balconies and creating lively activities within the confines of their homes reminds me of my mother, uncles, and grandfather. Living with hope under the circumstances. When all else fails, they have their music within. Unpolished but so vibrant, it travels for miles and miles harmonizing the earth.
I have imagined this music traveling across the ocean as my grandparents did transforming uncertainty into optimism. The first person I thought of to start it here is my friend Katie, a self-made tambourinist. Yes. She would lead us off with her tambourine because just thinking of her tambo gets the beat going. I can see her cracking open her winter-stale window to inhale fresh air. Slowly, she picks up her professional-grade red tambourine, the twist of her wrist follows, the music of the metal jingles begins. I think these metal circles are technically called zills. But the name metal jingles is a better fit for this performance, one which incorporates a home-made expansive stage. Yes. Her metal jingles will catch the attention of Tammy. Yes, Tammy will pick up the beat and pull out her recorder she has kept from grade school. It's nicely sleeping in a brown felt case. Unsnapping the case, she starts playing through her front door, which then catches the attention of perhaps, Maureen. Maureen will start silently humming and reminisce about her days in the upper school glee club. After her silent vocal cords warm up a few minutes, she can't stand to remain silent. She begins to sing lyrics she makes up right then and there through her bedroom window. Pam, across the street, hears the racket of the metal jingles, wood recorder, and song through her bedroom window. She is inspired to harmonize with Maureen's voice. After all, Pam has been singing in her house to herself for two days now and wouldn't it be better to sing with someone. Soon, Ana, who lives next door to me, feels the beat through the vibration of her drums. Lifting the sticks from their sleep, she doesn't think twice and adds her youthful self to the band. The energetic sounds travel and catch Betsy at her living room window as lilies of the valley peak through the dirt in her front yard. Spring is coming, she thinks! With her piano keys staring at her, she sits down and unlocks her natural talent. Betsy's fingers dance over the keys creating a sweet melody to this song of creation, a song that is alive and breathing on the stage of togetherness. What a memorable performance this would be. One that organically gleams from that which brings joy to the heart and uplifts the spirit. Wait. Is that a harmonica I sense playing from the heavens? Within the echo of silence, I can hear the music. It makes me dance!
When life becomes still, guide me to notice the music that continues to play. Help me adjust to a slower pace and tune in to the creativity that lives within me. Strengthen me during isolating moments with the sound of music. If I can provide that music with raw talent, I will open my window and door to play for others. Together, we will create beauty in new ways.