Even with the tape crackles and microphone muffles, the voice clarity lofting to high G’s surprises me. One viola note makes me cringe for a finer tuning. Otherwise, its deep resonance hums with Grandma’s piano, a Whitney baby grand given to her for her high school graduation. Her light-touch improvisations over well-known melodies transport me back twenty years to a sunny November Saturday where I perch on the edge of her piano bench. Balancing a tape recorder on his knees, Grandpa positions a small microphone towards me. Among many songs that day, I sing “The Lighthouse.”
As we listened to the CD together, my nineteen-year-old said, “Mom, I think they are singing with you.”
I pressed my ear against the speaker.
Her voice harmonizes under mine. His tenor blends in at the chorus, one of his favorites. This recording is a Christmas gift for my mother, but they can’t help joining in.
Just like their support through that song, I realized I never soloed during my college and early married years.
Not long after this recording, I learned I was expecting my first son. The deftness of her fingers faded with her memory. His robust voice remained even as cancer shriveled his physique. Those Saturday afternoon teatimes continued as we tried to ignore distant rumblings of life’s vicissitudes.
He passed on just after three great-grandsons entered the world in 2002. We lost her years before we lost her in 2010.
Some days I wish I could call them or stop by for tea. That we could sing those songs together one more time.
Hearing the music from that sunny November Saturday reminds me how much has changed. Including my range. Some days a high D can be a challenge, and I can gravel out a low C.
Some days–dark, stormy, lonely ones–I don’t feel much like singing.
Yet, I am still supported. I have it on record.
As she turns the pages, I hear her say, “Keep going.”
We did then. I do now. Forever never solo.