My mother’s strongest abilities are not musical. Although she spent her childhood toiling over the keys of an accordian and running a tune each Sunday in the pews at her Lutheran church, her voice somehow did not reap many rewards. It really isn’t her fault. Growing up with my grandmother (she is pictured in Webster’s under “tone deaf”) and my Great Grandmother (window shattering) as tone deaf aficionados it seems that any musical propensity she might have possessed was not long lived.
Despite her lack of musicality, my mother was never one to hesitate at an opportunity to sing. Every evening before bed my mother would read to my sisters and I, sing a few lullabies, and then tuck us into bed with a prayer and a kiss. Summers were spent camping with each day concluding around the campfire where my mom taught us the Campfire Girl songs she learned as a young girl. From my mother I learned songs from the 1920’s that we sang when visiting nursing homes, hymns, and even some melodies that taught me my times-tables.
As a young girl I remember standing next to my mom on Sundays during the worship service at our church. Clad in itchy lace and sagging tights I’d place my sweaty hand in hers and listen as she sang along with the surrounding congregation. Sometimes she would catch the tune and other times she would not, but always her singing was boldly unapologetic, resolute, confidant. As I look back now as an adult, I often wonder at the cause of my mother’s willingness to sing. Perhaps she wanted my sisters and I to be musical. Or maybe she wanted to teach us that perfection is a farse. Maybe she wanted to demonstrate the value of honesty and vulnerability. Or perhaps she simply loved music and wanted to share with us the songs that she enjoyed.
Whatever the reason, I am thankful because whenever I hear my mother singing, or find that a song my mother taught me is actually sung to an entirely different tune, I am given a reminder. I am reminded of my mother’s sacrifice to put me through piano lessons, drum lessons and voice lessons; that my worth is not measured by how many objectives I complete perfectly; that relationships can only blossom when I am truly honest and vulnerable; and that I know way more oldies and campfire songs than my music-loving husband does. I am thankful because although the exterior of my mother’s gift was misshapen when she gave it to me, the fruits of it have grown, are good, and are being harvested.