Music is a ribbon…

“I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas in to my brain.  Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.”  

~  George Eliot, English novelist (1819-1880)



Let’s not wait till they leave, honey,” she says, leans over and pats my knee, eyes twinkling.  “Put it on now…”

“Sure, go ahead…we’ll be on our way soon,” her daughter, my close friend, laughs, bustling around behind us, leading husband and daughters of her own to hurry for their meetup with friends.  A sort of summer hurrah as daughter one is about to go off to her first year of college.  Catching one more night of teen girl chatter, husbands tossing footballs, ice cream cones in an old fashioned parlor and confidences shared lakeside.   Music… of an equally exuberant kind.

I grin, reach for the remote and push play.   I’m not sure Mrs. C. really liked the idea of having me come tonight.  “That’s right, now I need a babysitter,” the 91 year old sharply noted when told the evening plans.  Because even though she needs someone to help her maneuver around, it isn’t her mind that needs help.  She doesn’t see or hear when her daughter taps my shoulder though, whispering some details to assisting with her walker, should she want to get up.

But now, as soon as the first note of song lilts across screen and credits, I feel her delight in sharing this old love with me.  And we become two compadres, side by side, she in comfy pajamas and rollers on her head, her fluffy little dog stretched out at our feet in chummy joy of his own.   I wonder how he sleeps as the decibels rise higher and higher to accommodate elderly hearing… and the romantic voices of Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy sweep and soar and schottische round the room.

The plot is thin and creaky and totally predictable.  But we aren’t watching it so much for that.  It’s the glory of classical music set to words, the screen presence of two who once captured  and held captive so many hearts of our nation, maybe the world, reigning as King and Queen of the movie musicals.  And nostalgia…  that takes Mrs. C. back to her childhood.  And in a way, brings me to mine too…because these stars, this music so filled my own mother’s and aunt’s hearts too.  I hear echoes of their voices a sparkle over these, wanting me to feel what they felt… and imparting that appreciation to me too…

And…because…there is such stirring beauty in this music.  The kind that inevitably, inexplicably, stars tears behind my lashes…leaves a lump in my throat.  I always try to identify that feeling, like the Thin Man, going through his classic whodunit clues.  But that reason…it’s sort of ethereal, wispy.  And every time I think I have it in my grasp, it wiggles free, flits off and leaves me wondering.  Nevertheless… savoring.

Maybe, it’s a hunger for that beauty and sweetness and tenderness of bygone days and a feeling of oneness with people — some, entertainers I didn’t even know personally –and a yearning that came upon me strongly even as a child.  Because… in a larger way, perhaps…it is a a kind of sensing of Heaven?  There is pure goodness in this music and in these people…however fictionalized…that transports, transforms, illuminates souls.

Stealing glances at Mrs. C., her face slightly averted so I can’t totally see her eyes, I do see radiant pleasure in her gentle smile.  Every once in awhile she elbows me, communicating in gesture and nod of her head, “See what is about to happen?  She is pretending not to be in love with him, but they are so in love…”  Or she purses her lips in that coy, knowing way she has, then nudges me, to share how she gets the witty word play between the stars and maybe wonders if I do too…

I think of my own mom, and how even when she could no longer form words for her own conversations, this music always lit her face, set her to singing those songs that wrote themselves into her heart and soul and mind as a child of the thirties…and never, ever left.  Because — music!   Oh how it transcends mind disorders, heals, speaks, takes hands and lifts you up to dance if only in mind… even when you thought you never could again!

Mrs. C. takes my hand, thanks me over and over for bringing the movie.  “Where did you find it?” she wonders.  I tell her how I recognized the  name when I was checking the Classic Movie Channel, and hearing of her love for J and N, taped it just for her.  How I’ll keep my eye out for more…

Halfway through, she moves close.  “Do you think people today would love these pictures so much?” she asks softly.  I recognize the wistful in her – that somehow, they might.

“I don’t know,” I admit, soften, “but isn’t this music glorious?”

Two hours later, the movie ends.  I’m thinking she may be tiring as she often does.  But she looks at me, eyes shining, girlfriend to girlfriend.   Like one who is about to do something naughty or to steal just one more bite of a treat.  Like a child, clapping her hands at a brilliant idea. “Do you want to watch another?” she breathes, nodding at me expectantly. “Oh, let’s do –“

“I do have another hour-long special I taped about Jeannette and Nelson,” I tell her, “if I can figure out how to change the tape in this machine…”

I do, and once again she is mesmerized.  She laughs and moons and grabs my hand when they mention some well known and beloved places of her hometown and mine… and I see how she is going back to days before my time.  We listen as Jeannette’s real-life  husband actor Gene Raymond, then very old, remembers his beautiful wife with tears in his voice… telling the cameraman just how extraordinary of a woman she was, of their 27 years of marriage until she died, really so young, of heart failure.  I wonder if Mrs. C. is thinking of her late husband too…

The phone rings, my friend letting me know they will be home in five or so…  The special is just ending, and Mrs. C. turns to me in surprise.  “But — I thought they were out for the whole evening!” she exclaims.

I laugh.  “Well, it has been three hours since we began watching these,” I say.

She looks at me wonderingly, then chuckles.   Silently, eye to eye, we seem to agree.  Time is timeless when music soars. 

“Thank you so much, Pam,” she tells me again and again.  Then, kicking into motherly hostess, she is trying to wrap me in snickerdoodles and other goodies-to-go…

And when the door opens and grandchildren and daughter and son in law return, she remembers each word of this show, recounting some of the facts and moments with ringing delight.  She could go on and on seeing pictures like these, she exclaims.

“I have many more I can bring over sometime,” I assure her.  Thinking of Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland, Howard Keel and Gordon MacRae and Doris Day…

“Oh, that will be delightful, honey!” she enthuses.

Sitting there on the couch, in her soft PJs and curler-lined whisps of blond colored hair, reaching up to kiss my cheek goodbye, she is little girl, mom, grandma, sweet child of God all rolled in one.  I see my own mom for a moment…recall days of sitting at her feet while she rolled my hair and we dreamed away the nights before classic shows.  Contrasted with hearing again the  wonder in her 80-something voice each time a song took her back…

And music… it is the ribbon that runs through and ties a bow of His rippling joy, intermingling our hearts with His and each other’s.

And Life… it’s the miracle of so many miniscule moments shared… and oftentimes the  most precious are the tiniest…

Something even Duffy the dog knew, curled in content,  there at our feet.


©   Pam Depoyan


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About Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

I love to hear your thoughts, even chat back and forth amongst comments.Won't you join the conversation? :) ..................................................................................................................... May my stories refresh you, like a whisper from our Father's Heart !
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16 Responses to Music is a ribbon…

  1. Lynn Morrissey says:

    Pam, this is so beautiful…….SO BEAUTIFUL. I resonated with every, single word. Music has been the silver cord (and chord!) that has wound through the lives of our family, uniting us often at sing-alongs around an old upright piano–and now, our grand. It is always our special pleasure to sing old songs, dating back as far as the late 1800s, but mostly the early 20th century. My grandmother used to play by ear (though classically trained) and sounded like a player piano. Now I do the honors, though much less capably. Just last night I was playing and singing some songs from the twenties, and some gorgeous Irish ballads, especially arranged for high voice. And I think I may have told you that I am a singer with a professional Bach chorus, so Bach is my mainstay lately as I practice the choruses for each season’s concerts (and I love that his music is Scriptural and God-praising). I too love old movie musicals, and Jeanette and Nelson are some of my favorite singers. To which movie were you referring? And while San Francisco is not a musical, I do love to hear Jeanette’s singing in it. It’s one of my favorite movies. You point out so lyrically how music can blend hearts, minds, souls, and generations. I think when I don’t sing, something in me dies. Oh…..and another thought: I was just listening to R. Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music yesterday (do you know it? It’s gorgeous)….. and its lyrics come from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Isn’t this beautiful?
    How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
    Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
    Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
    Become the touches of sweet harmony.
    Thanks for one of the loveliest posts you’ve ever written!
    PS Can you imagine the music that we will hear in heaven? Everyone will sing in the choir, too!

    • Lynn, you have me in tears. I LOVE all that old music… and I wish I could hear you singing it. Especially those Irish ballads! Last night, we were watching “New Moon.” But the PBS special showed highlights of many of their movies and songs like Rose Marie, Naughty Marietta, Sweethearts, and more. I noticed the Howard Keel version of Rosemarie is on this Friday on TCM, so I am going to try and tape that for her. I enjoy Jeannette and Nelson, but not really as much as Deanna Durbin. I LOVE her voice. And singers like Howard Keel, Gordon MacRae… mmmm… I don’t know Vaughn’s Serenade by name, but I am familiar with him and probably would recognize it if I heard it. Oh, and I love that Shakespeare you quote at the end! So, so lovely! You know my love of A’s music… so much glorious we have heard here, it is really impossible to envision heaven’s music, but I know we have only heard the tip of all there must be! I’m so so glad this resonated with you! I had a feeling it would! 🙂 Oh, and yes, I have always loved San Francisco! Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, earthquakes and Jeannette’s music! 🙂 (Well, I don’t love earthquakes. But I do love the way the movie ends with strong faith in the midst of that disaster.) I also like one of hers called Three Darling Daughters, I think…

      • Lynn Morrissey says:

        I love how you love music and know all the musicals and artists. And I love the ones you do (I think Gordon has one of the finest Broadway musical voices ever.) I believe she sings the following religious songs in it: Nearer My God to Thee, The Holy City, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I can’t recall if she sings Ave Maria. I am so sleepy so I’ll stop…..not thinking quite clearly….but the music was beautiful in this movie.

      • Yes, Gordon M. has always been one of my absolute favorites. Just grew up watching and loving all those musicals!

  2. Angel says:

    Your post is wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing with us at our Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop.
    Angel @

  3. I love those old classic movies and the beautiful music. Thank you for taking us there with you to visit Mrs. C. and her delight in your thoughtfulness. Thank you for sharing at “Tell Me a Story.”

  4. Thank you for sharing about this movie. I have watched a couple very old movies lately and thoroughly enjoyed them. I dropped over from 1-Minute-Bible-Love’s linkup party. Glad to meet you.

  5. Jann Olson says:

    They just don’t make movies like this anymore. I love old movies but haven’t watched one in a while. Need to take time and do that. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  6. Hi Pam,

    I so enjoyed reading your post. I was smiling with you. I kind of wish I was there too 🙂

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