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Posts Tagged ‘Mother’

Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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Photo:  circa 1937.  How I love the vintage furniture, doors, and carpet!  But most of all, I love the lady pictured there beside the chunky little kid whom I once was.  My mother was a Victorian, born in 1896 and she lived to age 93.  I cherish memories of her, and think of her every day of my life.  As I “mature”, I frequently add new recollections to my treasure câche of nostalgia. 

Lately I’ve been recalling how she had me memorize Psalms 1 and 23, starting when I was about the above pictured age.  Every night at bedtime, I recited these Psalms to her.  What an imprint.  When you consider those Psalms you realize that they beautifully summarize great truths of Scripture.  Psalm 1 speaks of man’s condition—both with and without the Lord in one’s life, and Psalm 23 (the most beloved of all!) speaks of the Lord’s tender care for each of His sheep.

Then Mother taught me a little verse, which was added to my bedtime repertoire: 

“My heart is God’s little garden

And the flowers blooming there each day

Are the things He sees me doing

And the words He hears me say.”

Anonymous

I recited these gems to my mother until I went off to college.

Mother was equanimity personified.  She NEVER raised her voice, NO NEVER.*  She didn’t have to.  She “walked quietly and carried a big stick”.  The big stick was used when necessary, which in my case was fairly often as I was a bit of a rip. 

While I grew up, Mother brushed and braided my hair every morning—with the possible exception of Saturdays.  This was a giant step, in keeping me “under control”.  I was a melodramatic kid who fancied myself a wild Gypsy—and I had the dark, snaggly thick mane to go with my cherished self-image.  Mom was committed to keeping me from looking and acting like the turbulent thing I liked to think I was.

Although she would always take a stand against anyone advocating or doing something that was morally or ethically wrong, my mother NEVER said an unnecessarily unkind word about anyone—NO NEVER.  Her patience with other humans was incredible.  Often, if a derogatory remark was made about someone, Mother would say, “But she means well.”  When she decided that someone definitely did not “mean well”, she would simply sigh and remark, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world”.

Only one contradictory sentence ever shadowed Mother’s attitude of forgiveness and goodwill, and it was a very funny one indeed.  Over and over throughout the years, I heard her say, “God gave us our relatives; thank God we can choose our friends.”

I hesitate to employ that one liner myself, because my relatives are precious—they are my best friends.  But Mom did have some overbearing relations.  When reviewing Mother’s life with her pastor before her memorial service, I mentioned the “Thank God we can choose our friends” statement—and he laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair.  He wanted to include that in Mother’s eulogy, but I firmly said “NO”.  A couple of remaining, ancient relatives would be at the memorial service and I didn’t want anyone miffed at the eleventh hour of that venerable Victorian generation!

On past Mother’s Day entries, I listed many wonderful things about my mother—how she was proud of her Scottish and Irish heritage, and how she was a hard worker who trained her children to work as well.  Mom loved her family and friends, and her loyalty was peerless. 

I inherited a lot from this amazing woman—either through the genes or from example.  Mother loved all of life, from the largest creature down to the smallest bird or butterfly.  She loved cats and dogs, classical music, classical poetry, tea parties, antique glassware, and dressing up every day

Before my marriage, Mother said, “Don’t ever let your husband come home at night and find you in the old clothes you’ve been wearing for cleaning and gardening.  Always dress up, and remember to re-fix your hair and face at least once during an evening—especially after dinner!”  This advice is branded in my heart and soul, and it’s an integral part of my life. 

Returning to Mother’s spiritual input in my life, I often recall how—when I was around 6 years old—she told me about the early Christian martyrs in Rome.  She told how they were put into the arena with hungry lions, and how they (the Christians, not the lions) sang hymns as they were being carried off. 

Now isn’t that a strange thing to tell a 6 year old kid?  But I’m grateful that she did!  The essence of the story stuck with me throughout the years.  When I became a Christian believer, at age 37, I began to reflect on that account—and I realized that whatever God was going to allow in my life would be undergirded and enabled by His Grace!  Lions are pretty terrifying, but God has conquered fear!

I think of Mother every day.  Recent Mother’s Days have been accompanied by a kind of inner aching because I don’t have her here.  But I will be seeing her again, FOREVER!  How fantastic is that!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*I grew up in such a “rose garden”, that I never heard anyone yell—except in a film, or at an exciting basketball game.  But there was one exception in the rose garden.  I heard my father shout—vehemently!—when my older sister brought home a young Communist whom she was dating at UW, Madison. 

Dad and the young Communist (who was fomenting revolution) had a deep discussion, and Dad SHOUTED!   This was very exciting to me, as it appealed to my sense of melodrama.  The fracas also imprinted some strong political views in my head!

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