Tag Archives: music

The Melody of Life

My maternal grandfather, who died when I was about two years old, loved music. My mom always talks about how he would play records in the living room when he came home. These weren’t just any records, they were the old glass ones, even before the vinyl we often reminisce about. He also loved movies – he used to set up a screen and play old cartoon reels for the neighborhood kids, who’d sit on the stoop in front of his row house on Pittsburgh’s North Side. 

I’ve been thinking about his this week. I never really got to know him, except through stories, but I think he’ll be smiling with my beautiful grandmother this weekend up in heaven. Saturday afternoon is the Pittsburgh Diocesesan Honors Band concert. Three of his great grandchildren will be playing in the band.

Anyone who knows me, knows my oldest daughter plays the trombone. She has a great talent for it we discovered somewhat accidentally. She plays in her school band, but through the tutelage of a great teacher, she is also active in the Pittsburgh Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s a pretty amazing organization, and she’s played in some impressive youth concerts.

But this Honors Band concert may be among the most special. She’ll have two cousins, daughters of my mom’s nieces, playing flute and clarinet alongside her. I like to think they each inherited my grandfather’s love of music, and through it, are stewards of our family ties, pulling those of us who have scattered apart somewhat through the daily necessities of life, back into the same space again to enjoy something wonderful.

Since I became a parent 12 years ago, I have discovered, over and over again, through the magic embodied in the development of my children, the unspoken, and often unnoticed importance of family. In our world today, family, parenting and the natural sacrifices it entails are often looked down upon, and sometimes ridiculed. I saw a story today in which some “great thinker” decided being a stay-at-home mom should be outlawed. In reality, maybe we should think of requiring it! Remember those days when we agonized over other people raising our kids? But I digress.

Watching a child grow is like watching a thread weave it’s way into beautiful embroidery. I love looking at my children and seeing traits of the people I love emerging in their personalities. Of course there are my habits and those of my husband – somehow they always seem to portray the very worst of mine (which miraculously has helped me to grow in God’s love). But I also see my brother, my mom, my dad, Bryan’s father, oldest sister, and brothers in my girls all the time. I never knew Bryan’s mother, but from what I’ve been told, she’s there as well, turning them into lovely young ladies. It’s a familial collage that makes them who they are, without them evening knowing it.

For me it’s a beautiful song reminding me to be thankful to all the inspiring people in my life whose love I often forget about when I’m in the depths of despair. I’m honored to have the personalities and experiences of each and every family member of mine, near or far, as part of my own. I can’t wait to hear those three girls playing my tune on Saturday.

Believe

If your a parent of a school-age child, you probably know the last thing that’ll get you into the Christmas spirit is the annual school Christmas concert.

It’s always just a few days before the big day, there’s no where to park and sometimes no where to sit at school, parents are all dancing around getting the back of their heads in someone else’s video or picture,  there are strange delays in the schedule – like unscheduled bathroom breaks, crying or a performer who won’t take the stage, tweens who take the stage and refuse to sing because they’re too cool, wardrobe malfunctions and so on. 

Our annual concert was shaping up to be more of this chaos, up until the actual event. My kids were complaining about changes in words, songs and choreography for weeks. We parents weren’t really crazy about having to pull together “costumes” while making our traditional Christmas time purchases. And a new teacher was producing the show. No one knew what to expect.

We got the traditional stuff. Phones in the air blocking everyone’s view. Kids off key, words forgotten, wrong gestures at the right time, and so on. And of course, huggable little ones smiling, hamming it up and “hi Mom-ing” it from the stage, while some how forgetting the words to Frosty.

But as acts moved from kindergarten through the eighth grade (this is Catholic school), something happened. The Christmas Spirit I’ve been struggling to find for weeks showed up. The seventh grade, a class I have no children in, began to sing “Believe” from The Polar Express movie. These kids – many of whom I know personally and love dearly – began to sing about growing up into not believing. Some of the same kids who have been sewing doubt about Santa in my girls. And I began to think – the worst thing anyone can do at a time like this.

I thought of those kids on the stage, coming out of childhood into a world where they must face so much more than I ever had to at that age. How the simple fact that we outgrow Santa signifies so much more. The song wasn’t sung perfectly, the music wasn’t live, but I found myself crying as I watched one of my favorite, most active young men sing this gentlest of carols. 

“Turn back!” I wanted to yell to him. “Stay young! Be a kid while you still can. Growing up only brings confusion, pain, and things that aren’t any fun!”

I began to realize my own age. My parents age. I remembered that this year, I have one major Santa skeptic, and one true believer. And I began to think about my own waning belief that there are decent people still in the world. And I realized that I want to be one of those good people.

And then, I knew what I wanted for Christmas. I want the patience, wisdom and understanding to love those I’d rather not. The courage to stop hiding from other people because I don’t want pain, rejection and pushback. 

At the end of the show, all of the kids sang “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” So simple. Yet so meaningful in our day. 

Those children. At one of those chaotic concerts. You’ve taught my heart to sing. And helped me find the real spirit of Christmas. Thank you.