Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday's Tale: We Three and the Silver Brass.

"It's so great to meet you - I've heard so many good things! Thank you for having us over. Wow, your garden is so beautiful!"

"Well, now, you've said all the 'right' things, so come on in and meet my husband."

And, thus, the tone for my Thursday evening was set.

I have a close friend and musical partner who frequently invites me over for dinner and music. I had been traveling for a couple of weeks and she had asked me to catch her up over the course of one of these evenings. On this particular occasion, as I was nearing the end of my travel stories, Sarah peered over at me and announced, "Erin, we have a concert tonight. A one-song concert. For my neighbors." I cocked my head to one side and raised a curious eyebrow. [I should also note that this same friend has a strong tendency to spring spontaneous ideas on me - I've learned how to roll with it.]

"You're going to be playing their trumpet. It belonged to their son. He died."


My dear friend had been growing close with her neighbors, just a few doors down. They were an elderly couple and I was told they kept a beautiful garden in their backyard. I knew little else.

We grabbed our gear and began to walk. I was introduced to *Jenny, who then proceeded to introduce me to her backyard, which housed the beautiful garden I had heard so much about. After chatting for a few minutes (see introductory dialogue), we were invited to come inside.

I was introduced to *Paul, seated in an armchair next to a portable oxygen tank. He immediately rose out of the chair to warmly greet the two of us and proceeded to walk towards his office where the old trumpet was kept. He placed the case in the sunroom and then rejoined us around the dining room table. *Marcy, their therapy dog, curled up behind a wooden chair. This couple frequented the same assisted living homes that Sarah and I would play music for each month and Paul began to recount stories of the characters we had encountered there.

"Do you remember Victor? When I first met him, I said, 'I'm good for two things: I'm good for nothing and I'm no good.' He still remembers that and says it back to me whenever I visit."

I excused myself to go into the sunroom and warm up for our "one-song concert." I picked up the silver brass in my hands. How long had it been since this instrument had been played? The valves were well-oiled. There were two mouthpieces, each finely polished. What was the story here, little trumpet?

Sarah grabbed her guitar and motioned for me to join her in the kitchen.
Smiling mischieviously, she said, "Just two gals and the *Johnstons. What sort of trouble do you think we can get in?"

Strumming. Swaying. Sarah has a way of entrancing a room with her stage presence - subtle, but commanding. We began the first strains of "Moon River." Paul's eyes glazed and shifted somewhere just above the dining room table. Jenny's lips parted into a small smile as she formed the words along with us. Marcy lay on the floor, eyes partially closed, easing into the calm of the melody. I looked up again and I could see his face slightly clouded over, face slightly flushed. He was somewhere in his memories and I dare not ask the location. Letting them be where they will be. I could only sing these words as deeply as I knew them to be sung. Perhaps, as deeply as they were written to be felt. I played, and though it was nothing extraordinary in technique or skill, I played because it needed to be played.

The last note and last word faded off. A moment of quiet and then all quickly moved back into conversation again. Did I play around the city much? What university had I attended? How many dogs had they raised? (They spoke of their dogs as others might speak of their own children.) Curiousity still grew in my mind. What was the story behind the trumpet?

As the hours grew later, so did the depth of the conversation. I eventually found out the answers to my questions. A tender, devoted son, repeatedly drawn back into his addiction to the drugs that would eventually end his life. Another son, still living, but out-of-state, married and out of contact with his family. It seemed to me that Paul and Jenny had attempted to cope with these situations by pouring their lives into a local church family, gardening, raising dogs and visiting assisted living homes. I did not press for further details. The stories were laden with despair; their courage, moving to all who had a glimpse.

Jenny had made a dessert cake and some Southern sweet tea. She served each a plate and we moved on to digging up old photo albums: times when their boys were young, military graduations and their '61 wedding. We sifted through yellowing pages and giggled at Paul's observations until it was time to leave.

Jenny waved to us from the door.

"You were probably bored as a gourd."

We waved back and walked out into the night.

(Marcy, the dog)

[*real names protected for privacy purposes]

No comments:

Post a Comment