Mama’s Music

I’m a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s and if I had children, they would undoubtedly know the music of that era.

They’d know Carole King and Carly Simon, James Taylor, the Eagles, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, the Bee Gees, and Three Dog Night.

And unlike this college freshman in my fundamentals of communication class whose name escapes me, they’d never even think of asking what the Carpenters built.

And every time one of those songs from my era was playing in a department store, they’d probably roll their eyes during their teenaged years, perhaps even put their hands over their ears and mumble, “make it stop.”

But whenever they heard one of those songs, for the rest of their lives, they’d think of me.

Recently some friends took me to the quaintest Italian café for lunch. It was an old, restored two story house. Each of the rooms was filled with tables covered in red and white checkered table cloths. The room we were seated in was painted red, my favorite color. Black and white photos from another time decorated the walls. I loved it.

Then on our trip up the stairs to our table, I heard the background music playing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that song played in a restaurant – at least not since the days of Shakey’s Pizza – but I knew it instantly.

“Come on and hear, come on and hear, Alexander’s Ragtime Band…”

I’d heard my mom play it on the piano lots of times. It was one of her standards, like “Shine On Harvest Moon” or “Baby Face,” classic songs from the ‘20s.

Mlittle girl
My mom at the age of five or six in this photo, probably around 1926 or 1927.

(You see, my mom was nearly forty years old when I was born, so she knew and loved music that was much older. While we didn’t listen to the top 40 on the radio when I was growing up, because I was exposed to my mom’s era of music, I have a pretty expansive knowledge of old tunes and a wide range of musical taste. Thanks, Mama!)

The next song up was a Cole Porter tune, “Anything Goes,” from the Broadway musical by the same name. I remember going to see the show with her and my dad when I was a little girl.

After that, a Glenn Miller classic, “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” followed by one of the Dorsey Brothers, Tommy or Jimmy, and of course, some Benny Goodman.

I knew all of the songs they played during our lunch, all songs from the ‘20s, ’30s, and ‘40s. They were my mom’s favorite songs. Songs from her era.

I’m not sure that my friends knew any of those songs. I can’t be sure that they even realized music was playing, for that matter, but at times I could hear nothing else. My mama was in every one of those songs. She might as well have been in the room. I’m not so sure that she wasn’t.

All I know is that this perfectly orchestrated, beautiful soundtrack of her life played in the background to keep me focused on the present, completely engaged, listening intently to the conversation at the table, just as she so often did when she was with people.

That’s one of the things about her I miss most.

Four years ago today, in the earliest hours of the morning I sat with her and held her hand as she passed from this life. But in so many ways she’s still here.

In quaint little cafes.

In music.

In conversation.

In laughter.

In me.




4 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda says:

    Sally that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a poignant moment, so richly and beautifully.

  2. Candra Turpin says:

    What a heartwarming tribute to your mother, such precious memories that are forever in your heart…prayers for you today.

  3. unclecarl says:

    God Bless You, girl. Keep writing. I guess you know that they served FUN at Shakey’s……..(Also Pizza).

    Some say that Nostalgia’s not what it used to be. I think it is, and I love to swap stories about our “Once Upon A Times”.

  4. como62 says:

    Sally, what a lovely tribute to your mother. I lost my mother when I was 15…would love to have had such a span of memories. You are blessed indeed.

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