The first time I ever sang was in the back seat of Kaisery, right behind Daddy, where I am now. I just jumped in on the chorus to Jimmy Crack Corn. That’s usually one of the first songs we do. Daddy sings the verses and then Kathy, Mary Ruth and I sing the chorus at the top of our lungs, and nobody minds, not even Mommy when she’s riding up in the front seat next to Daddy. We sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Little Brown Jug, I’ve Got Six Pence, Big Rock Candy Mountain, and so many others. Often at night, when Kathy, Mary Ruth and I are so tired we can’t sing another note, Daddy will end it all with Three Coins in a Fountain. It almost makes me cry when he sings it, this strong feeling just fills me up, and then sometimes I fall asleep right there in Kaisery.
Mommy doesn’t sing along in the car because she says our kind of singing isn’t really music. But she doesn’t cover her ears either because when Daddy’s happy, it’s hard for everybody around him not to catch it. That’s something I adore about him.
Mommy’s something called a classical musician. So is Grampa Adams. She plays piano and he plays bass. And he used to play cello with some symphony somewhere, but he doesn’t anymore. He’s retired. But he still has his bass and it’s almost as tall as he is and three times as wide. I hope that someday I can be as good on the piano as Mommy is. Her playing is like magic too, come to think of it. She has this whole repertoire of things. Some of them are happy marches, and Mary Ruth and I can’t help dancing all around the living room when she plays them. Kathy has two trick knees, so she doesn’t always join in. She watches, head tilted to the side, and Mommy says she’s like Lady Godiva. And it seems Mommy has a piano piece for every sort of mood and every sort of character. Like there’s this music from this thing called Peter and the Wolf, and when she plays one part she’ll ask, “Can’t you just see Peter skipping along to this?” and I can, I really can. And then she plays a very different sort of music sort of scary, and she asks, “Now can’t you see the wolf coming?” and I really can see the wolf coming too.
I love all of the pieces she plays, the concertos, the mazurkas, the sonatas, the fugues. All of them are wonderful, but I think I like Rustle of Spring the best. People always ask her to play it when they visit. I feel lucky to be there when that happens. We snuggle in on the couch, and it’s like we all enter a dream. The piece builds and builds like when I stack wooden blocks one on top of the other higher and higher. Except her playing is better than that. I get more and more swept away like spring is stirring in my own body each time and, oh, I’m in love with the world. And when she finishes and the last notes are still there in the air, everyone in the room is silent. We stay silent for a long time because the same thing has happened to each of us and we can’t think of the right words to say.
Finally, one of the adults will say something like, “That was magnificent, Helen.” And then the room will slowly fill with conversation, like the way a summer shower starts slow at first with just a few drops and then grows stronger until rain is falling lightly everywhere, beading on the flowers and leaves, running down my face and into my wide-open mouth. And then a rainbow forms across the sky, and what could be more beautiful? At those times I think I must have the most amazing mommy in all of Chicago.
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