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My mom's music

My Mom couldn't sing the way you hear grand people sing, but she hummed and sang in her own way the prettiest I ever heard. She sang like the young golden leaves on the cottonwood tree in the spring, or like the snow-white sprays of sweet honey-locust blossoms dripping on the tall, plumey trees that she had planted as twigs a long time ago. She sang like the wandering breezes that came across the Oklahoma prairie there where our home was.

Mom sang as she worked. She might be mending, baking bread, or digging in the garden. She sang when she was troubled or worried or lonely, and she sang when she was happy--but especially she sang when we needed comfort or help, just by way of keeping things together, not trying to impress anyone with her singing. It was nothing extra; it was just being herself.

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Mostly she sang the words of hymns she remembered from her childhood back in ''ol' Kaintuck''--a mysterious country we children never knew. Or it might be some cowboy lament she learned from her brothers, a fine new tune such as ''She Was a Bird in a Gilded Cage,'' heard on a trip to Cheyenne or Sayre. Or maybe she would just be thinking out loud, humming tunes while her mind roamed on other things.

Our Mom had a treasure--it was her organ. Now we call those little cottage organs ''old pump organs,'' but then it was brand new. She must have saved up nickels and pennies for a long time to buy it from some travelling salesman, or it could be that her brothers wheeled and dealed it for her. I'm just guessing--we never heard her say. As long as we knew our Mom she had her organ. It was just part of her.

Mom never let a speck of dust settle on her organ. She kept it sparkling, and it was worth it--it was so beautiful. It had a regular Victorian housefront on it full of scrolls, turned knobs, circles-and-dots and loads of cherry wood filigree across the front with red plush behind it. There were two little turned and scalloped shelves that looked like cake stands, one on each side. They held Mom's small silver candlesticks and their red candles.

To get the round stool just the right height Mom would give it a whirl, then sit down, spreading her hands out over the smooth white keys and start the music rolling and careening and humming out, all the time pumping away with both feet . . . then she would sing. She never needed a book or sheets of music to look at. I suppose the tunes just came into her head when she needed them. It was not great music, as I was surprised to learn later when I went away, but it was lovely--and it was our Mom.

If any of us, or anybody, felt like it, we were welcome to sing along, but usually we would go on playing or doing whatever we were doing, paying no attention, but letting her play and sing. If our Pop was home he was content to sit back and read his paper.

Sometimes, mostly in the early spring when the bright warm days began to arrive (although the wind could still be sharp) we would go walking over the hill back of the house into the pasture and she would sing and hum to herself while we ranged around looking for leaves or pretty rocks to take home.

The best time to go walking in the pasture would be on Mom's birthday, the 17 th of April. By the 17th of April the first wild daisies would be in bloom. They grew in the short, dry winter grass close to the ground without stems, as if holding on tight to keep from being blown away.

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I always remember Mom's song when I think of the first flower of spring. She had a song for the daisies and a whole different one for the wild, free wind that was forever coursing across the plains.

Every year I go back there in my mind to walk that prairie pasture on Mom's birthday, to listen to her song on the wind and to hunt for the first daisies that are always blooming there in the grass the same as then.

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