I used to sprawl in the last pew of the church, the one closest to the double doors at the back of the room, the escape route denied to me during those long practice sessions. In this Methodist edifice, there were long cushions of dark green velvet whose dusty yet comforting softness would cradle me as I lay on my back, one leg hiked across the other knee, or on my sides, legs tucked up, shoes kicked to the floor, the inevitable book held reverently before my youthful face.
Sometimes beams of bright sunlight would shaft into the space, and I would be distracted by the dancing motes and their swirling whirlpools. Sometimes my book would slowly sink to my chest while I gazed at backlit stained glass windows whose stories would come to life so that I too felt the spread of my angel wings or sat stroking soft lamb wool while sitting at the feet of that glowing figure in the white robe.
Sometimes I even tuned in to the music soaring through the cathedral rafters—ethereal notes light as air, pounding marches a call to action, familiar refrains of hymns shared year after year after year. I could identify the padded strike of the organ foot pedals, the thump and scrape as levers were pushed and pulled, the quick flip and crackle as a page was turned—these were the orchestra of my mother’s music.
She would sit on that polished bench, both hands flying across the two tiers of black and white keys, leaning forward or rocking back as the notes dictated, her feet moving independently over the pedals in a dance both beautiful and mystifying to a young girl with no musical talent of her own. The rows of copper pipes standing shoulder to shoulder above the ancient organ would sing their throaty songs, filling the air with a blanket of sound that became the backdrop of my youth.
At that time I often squirmed with the unfairness of being forced to stay there while she practiced, but I know now that those moments of soaring music and imaginative journeys were precious pages written in my story of family love.
Fair Oaks, CA