Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Possible Titles

1. Love on the 4th

2. Shrunken Moments

3. On Lumps and Laughter

4. Music Music Music

The lump comes and its arrival is totally predictable. The national anthem is always preceded by the "Stars and Stripes Forever," at least at the Fourth of July concert. Every year. Like clockwork. Like Adam and Eve. Like Mutt and Jeff. Like J-Lo and Anthony. By this time, I would have looked around to see if "she" was here. She usually arrives late, in the rush of a young mother, answering yet another call to arms. This particular call to arms is to rejoin the Williston Town Band for their Fourth of July concert. She plays piccolo. Really well. And it is my anticipation of her piccolo solo during the refrain of probably the most recognizable march ever written that brings the lump, the requisite tearing up. I am the one G. S. Lightoller wrote about in 1908 when he noted:

"The classical descriptions of this emotion seem inadequate or even misleading, as no account is taken of the very important part played by the M. mentalis, a powerful and misunderstood muscle which already has been shown (op. cit. throat) in activity during speech and will presently be shown active during the emotion of distress."

No other recording will do. This is the one that works. And for perhaps 45 seconds, I go through my private little focusing meditation to soak in as much as I can of her flawless interpretation to fill my well for another 365 days. I struggle to keep my um-pahs going as I open every pore to fully experience the be-dee-dee dee-deedle deedle dee dee deedledeedled lee dee deee soaring above reined-in, supportive momentum of the rest of the band, twenty-eight strong, new high schoolers to long retired veterans, doing their Fourth of July day thing.

The lump is really a gift, from my Mom, from the person who invited me to the world of music, made sure I had piano lessons, ended way too soon when Mrs. Peckham up and moved away when her husband retired from the insurance business. She is the one who played the thick, black and gold labeled 78 of Enrico Caruso singing Vesti La Gubia, sharing her tears at the wonder of his soaring tenor, lifting about the scratches and clicks of what was to me a recording from the time of the Pharohs. She was the one who accompanied my Celito-Lindos on the trumpet. She's the one who came to the band concerts, listened to me practice my state music contest solos, and told me how proud and surprised she was when I made All State Orchestra. And she's the one with whom I played - or tried to play - the old standards, she on the piano, me on my instrument of the moment. It was never work, it was great fun, we laughed lots, and in a family where laughter was usually muted, that attachment of music to joy and guffaws was a major ingredient of our Mother/Son bonding.

I now realize how much I learned about the music of her time by just listening to her singing and playing and sharing who she was and who she might have been when she was young like me. The lump makes manifest even now, the emotional connection to mother love forged through the experience of music. The lump is a sign to me that this sustaining love lives when every fourth of july a piccolo solo by an unknown Mom brings me to my Mom and the music we share.

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