Life's Soundtrack

For as long as I can remember - like, really, as long as I can remember - I have personally made, or been a party to someone making (read: my big sister), music mix tapes.  I mean, I would sit in front of the radio for HOURS recording favorite songs.  Maybe perhaps based around some theme or genre like unrequited love or grunge, I would pause at just the right spot so as not to get any unwanted commercials on the tape, and then sit back and listen to my hours-long work condensed into sixty minutes of tape.

For longer than that music has been intricately woven into the familial fabric I have been given.  Whether it be my father or sister and their incredible voices (which is totally the only description for them, family or not), aunts, uncles, or grandparents singing or playing music, the sounds have been ever-present.  Even in the bodily absence of my grandfather Carl, in the last thirty days I have discovered some of the best music ever made in the form of his treasured records that I've been playing on a turntable I purchased for a steal online.  (Where's Chet Atkins been all my life?)

I suppose there are people somewhere on the planet who don't think much about music and all that jazz (me so punny), but I can't imagine that.  Music is magical, amazing.  I've decided that from time to time I want to share some of my favorite music and musicians here.  Sometimes it's the lyrics.  Sometimes it's the voice or the instrumentation.  Other times it's just the memory or emotion it evokes.  I've been thinking about this for some time, and today I know just where to start.

In my childhood I remember waking on Sunday mornings to the sound of live music coming from the living room. Without fail, it was my mom playing the piano. I remember the upright she played and the "Rhapsody In Blue" picture that hung above it. Mom's not a flashy lady.  In fact, a part of me wondered if I should get an all-clear from her before I wrote about her, but then what's the fun in that? But her playing is beautiful. Really beautiful. She's perfectly content for no one to know that. She plays for the sheer love of it. She's part of no band, plays for no church, or civic organization. She just plays because she has to. It's part of her now. Recently I even stopped by her house after running some errands with the kids, walked to her front door, and just stood on her front porch and enjoyed the concert coming through the interior and exterior walls. If I haven't said it already, beautiful.
The singular song that I remember from those Sunday mornings, and for which I will be eternally indebted to her for exposing me to, is Autumn Leaves.
The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
Such a somber song.  And the version that Mom played was flourishy and dynamic, but so sincere.  Only years later did I learn the lyrics.  When I did, it explained the occasional tears that accompanied the resident pianist of our living room.

Not just is Mom not flashy, she's also somewhat of a mystery.  She can be quiet and guarded in the information she divulges (what great qualities, actually), especially about herself.  Dad, my sister, and I have joked that in a lot of ways she will die a mystery to us still.  But what she was never withholding in was loving us fully and drawing us out into who we are.  Quiet maybe.  Private, certainly.  Withholding of affection and love without conditions: NEVER.

I know now there have been losses that I can only imagine but that my mother lived.  One of them is the loss of a brother: Lewis Matthew Pope.  Through a post of my mom's from today, I gather that he would have celebrated his 58th birthday today.  Instead, he is frozen in time a 31-year-old man.  Here is what I know:
- He was funny.  Really funny.  Like, my kind of funny.  I love that.
- He was insanely and ridiculously artistically gifted.  An artist extraordinaire.
- I look like him.  A lot.
- He left a mother, a brother, and two sisters.
- He was not here nearly long enough.

His name is carried on by a red-haired, three-year-old munchkin of a great nephew.  His artistic abilities shot straight through the bloodline to his siblings' children.  And none of us can make it through a day without wit and sarcasm, which I think would make him laugh pretty hard.

I understand the fingers of the pianist being drawn to a song like this.  And what may have been grief or catharsis for her opened my world to beautiful music.

Thank you, Mama.  And happy birthday, Lewie.

If you've never heard Eva Cassidy, I'm, oh so sorry. Find out more about her here. (Thanks, SisterFriend, for her.)

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