How It All Began
Isn’t it interesting that one who performs music can “muse” about where that ability comes from? I personally started at age 3. Maybe I should say, my Grandmother took full notice of my musings by the time I was aware of her taking full notice. She was the live-in babysitter in our Harlem apartment as, Mom worked days, Dad worked nights and my two older brothers were already going to school without me.
Grandma busied herself throughout the days preparing meals, sewing, cleaning up while watching me play with toys and games in my crib; all to the soothing sounds of the radio or the television occupying background space. As I heard music of any kind, Grandma mused about how I could keep time; beating on the side of the crib to a song that caught my ear. If it was a commercial on TV, I could sing the jingle back to her just the way I heard it; In key nonetheless! She would raise her eyes to the ceiling in our apartment and say something to the effect of “did you ever?” For those who don’t know what I was able to do in those days, it’s simply having the inborn ability to reproduce the exact sound or tone of the voice or instrument. Trust me when I tell you; it’s not something a child or anyone else for that matter can afford to brag about. Audiologists call it perfect pitch. Between keeping time on the side of the crib and, being able to sing in key, a musical decision soon had to be reached.
And The Winner Was…
We lived in what was affectionately known then as “project” apartments where, you could hear your neighbors on the floor above and below, without trying too hard to eavesdrop. As law abiding tenants, we wanted to remain as peaceful as we had ever been in those days. Perhaps that’s what swayed my three parents to settle on getting me a toy piano instead of a drum set. Mom played a real piano in church so, it was no stretch to teach me a few melodies in her spare time.
I played everything I could make out on that toy piano over the course of the next year of my life. By age 4, I told the jury of my parents that there were not enough notes on this instrument. Mom didn’t play piano in church every week and I didn’t always go when she did but I started to hear things on TV and radio that I couldn’t find on that thing. I was ready for an upgrade before I knew what it was. They agreed to get me a real piano if I was ready to take real music lessons from a real teacher. I said I was ready and Grandma raised her eyes to the ceiling to say something.
Who Was She Talking To?
This was by no means the first time I had seen Grandma do that yet, it did start a dialogue with me about WHO she was talking to. She said his name was “God” and judging by the tone of her voice, now was absolutely not the time for sarcasm or wisecracks. I don’t remember all the questions I might have had for her over the years since then but, as my musical skills improved, even I had more reason to raise my own eyes to the ceiling and say something.
It Makes More Sense Now
Grandma’s been gone from here a long time. My formative years with her resonate in my soul like a favorite scene in a poignant movie. I still hear her voice telling me things I’ve come to honor and cherish now that I’m a grandfather who still speaks lovingly of her lessons. I learned that the presence of God is something to remind yourself to be aware of. Though I didn’t know Him too well back then, He’s made Himself quite clear through my memory of her loving voice.
The Ultimate Muse
Today, there’s so many more distractions to separate a grandchild from his “Pop Pop”. My oldest grandson in particular has more opportunity to interact than the rest of the brood and he gets to listen to my musings about when I was his age. Sure, the times are drastically different from then but, one thing remains unchanged. The presence of God and helping my grandson recognize Him through my voiced experiences will remain a most ultimate muse.