Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Writing 101, Day Three:Commit to a Writing Practice

on June 4, 2014

Watching Jeopardy! I’m in awe of contestants who know the names of countless groups and the music they’ve been making for the last fifty years. Beginning in the 40’s and 50’s music for me was the Hit Parade, Broadway show tunes, church hymns, Grand Opera, and the music of Cole Porter and Gershwin that is perennially in season. The Beatles and Elvis came on the scene when I was a teenager who lived in Mississippi, but I wasn’t interested in their music – then. My friends and I used to play an old 33 rpm recording of the opera Aida and dance around the living room to the music of The Grand March from Aida. We could sing every song from South Pacific. We knew lots of hymns because going to church was what everyone did on Sunday morning.

You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel was my “good luck” song when I was a teenager. I loved the song the first time I heard it. It wasn’t played on the radio very often and when it was, something good seemed to happen for me. I lived then in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, close to other small towns. When someone in one town had a dance, friends in the other towns were invited. Usually the dances were at the local Elk’s Club, and there was a live band. I remember a time when a dance was being held in a town a little farther away from where I lived than the others. My parents had decided that I couldn’t to go. I was heart-broken. The day of the dance I hung around the house and was especially polite. I looked for ways to be helpful. I skulked around in my beseeching mood most of the day but nothing changed. Suppertime came and went. I thought any chance of my going to the dance was fading. I went to my room to listen to the radio and found You’ll Never Walk Alone playing. While the song was playing, my mother appeared to tell me I could go to the dance after all. I gasped in surprise and delight. My good luck song had done it again!

The elementary school my children attended in Cleveland, Ohio had a wonderful ritual to celebrate sixth grade graduation called a “clap out”. The students gathered at the top of the stairs leading from the second floor to the first. As each name was called the student descended the stairs while all the parents, other family members, friends and neighbors clapped. Sounds simple, and it worked magic because we all sang “On Top Of the World” by the Carpenters as a serenade to the kids. I hadn’t heard the song before and the words struck a deep chord inside me. I thought of my first son whose graduation it was. He wasn’t an especially good student. He had gotten into trouble with the principle in almost every grade in some pretty creative ways. He was loving and very dear to my heart. I imagined him setting off to conquer Junior High School or at least give it a good try. And for now he was”on top of the world”.

Next week I’ll go to that same elementary school for the clap out of a one of my grandsons and to the same Junior High School for another grandson’s clap out celebration. I will be with their fathers who have grown into men who make me proud. I understand that the songs they sing have changed, but I know the magic will be the same.

In my vintage years, when I lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, I went to a church that welcomed everybody, period. The first time I worshiped there I could see diversity written on the faces and bodies of the choir. The lead soprano sat in a chair because of her disability. The faces of the choir were a rainbow. The choir director for a brief time served at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where MLK Jr. was Pastor. Sometimes the director played a Steinway piano to accompany the choir. Other times a gentleman in his 90’s who wore his white hair in a ponytail accompanied on an organ.

The congregation permanently rearranged the pews so it was possible to form a circle around them and sing holding hands. Every Sunday we ended the service singing The Lord Bless You and Keep You. Members who move away come back to visit and say what they miss most is the closing circle. My favorite singing circle was when we celebrated MLK Jr. Sunday annually and sang Lift Every Voice and Sing holding hands and swaying to the music. We could see tears in one another’s’ eyes and feel that we were united as one body and soul in hope.

3 responses to “Writing 101, Day Three:Commit to a Writing Practice

  1. Thewitch says:

    I really enjoyed that!! You really captured the mood of each time perfectly. Thank you!!

    • vivachange77 says:

      I really appreciate your comment. After reading other takes on the Day 3 assignment I realize my music environment is so very different, but I’m not going to call it old fashioned. It’s good to hear I make sense to you. Thanks.

  2. Thank you, I enjoyed reading this so much. I would have loved to go to one of those dance. I love the music from back then. You have so much to share; it’s wonderful

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