Good Morning People!
Singing: We made it! We survived… errr… da da dum, dum
Yeah, yeah I don’t remember the rest of the words. I just know it’s a gospel song from a bootleg CD … ahem… CD I bought and those words describe exactly how I feel at this point in time.
Which reminds me of a question I’d meant to ask y’all a while back but before I do, do we have any “Living Single” fans in the house?
If so, do y’all remember Max? (played by actress Erica Alexander). The eat-too-durn-much-a-holic? It cracked me up in one episode when Khadijah (played by actress/model/songstress Queen Latifah) asked Max if she remembered a certain incident.
Max’s initial response was no. Then Khadijah mentioned what Max was eating at the time and presto–her recollection of that moment in time was a miraculous thing.
Well, most of my memories are connected to music. I’ve been singing all my life and in fact, were it not for music I would not be here, much less the devout Christian I am today. There was a time when my life was so rife with strife that I had a hard time hearing the Word. I mean, who wanted to hear the Words of a God who allowed, wife beating, daddies who slept with their daughters and boys who kept going when you said stop? Oh come on now, I know someone out there knows what I’m talking about. The loss of hope, the feeling of worthlessness, the lack of friends because we push everyone away to ensure continued secrecy?[i]
Well–as soon as a preacher began to preach–I was present in body but absent in mind. But not so with music. The choir could sing all it wanted and that was enough of a sermon for me. I believe that is the very essence of and, to me, explains the universal appeal of music. It has the ability to go where no man has gone before. It is Godlike in its ability to reach down into the depths of our very being and melt a hardened heart, comfort a bruised spirit and soothe a chaotic mind.
I’d often say to all and sundry, “It’s a wonder that I’m here today,” or “I don’t know how I made it.” But in retrospect I knew–I just didn’t know that I knew. Unable to reach me by spoken Word, God who is the Word, reached my by the constant repetition of Word wrapped in lyrics and accompanied by musical instruments was able to keep my demons at bay and imbue me with the strength needed to survive as well as plant a seed of hope which one day was watered by the spoken Word that I was finally willing and ready to hear.[ii]
Today, when I hear certain songs like:
Here and Now: It swoops me smack dab into the memory of my favorite sister’s wedding. I had the honor of singing it. But above all that I remember her trembling but taking that huge step head held high, but what garnered my attention most was my brother-in-law, big strong
strapping ex-football player weeping unashamedly–in public! That was not a thing of my experience. Upon viewing that sensitivity, I think that’s the moment we connected and what has enabled us to be close friends, family and eventually mentor (him) and mentee (me). But that’s another issue.
Low in the Grave He Lay: Pulls me straight back to my homeland, Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies.
I peered through the dusk at the scene which drew the focus of all present–the sight of a blindfolded man clad in white shirt and pants, being submerged in the water. I recall thinking that it seemed as though Elder had a tempo going. Wave one, wave two, wave three–submerge, resurrect, turn to the congregation, glare and demand, “Why aren’t you singing? Sing!” Then assured of blind obedience he’d turn around and reach for the next candidate for baptism being ushered his way.
As I looked longingly at the boy, a relative of Elder’s, who was allowed to sleep, the white clad members of the congregation renewed their efforts at singing Low in the Grave He Lay, the song that later explained to me the symbolism of the candidates being submerged in the cold surf and resurrected one after the other at that godforsaken hour of the morning. But at that point in time, all I could wonder was, Don’t they know another song? How come he gets to sleep and I have to stay awake? Shucks there’s another mosquito. Yeeech, this sand is sooo cold and it’s all between my toes… Are we done yet![iii]
Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen: Wings me once again to the land of my birth and a clear cut vision of my eight or nine-year-old self, up under the house[iv] mumbling to myself in between stifled sobs and hiccups, When I get older I’m gonna leave this place and these mean people[v] behind. Always beating people, as if they her mother. My mammy’s not here. She’s in America. I don’t see why I have to empty and wash the stupid poseys[vi] anyways. I’m the youngest and if I can hold it all night how come they can’t? I’m going to stay here all day and not come out–that’ll show them!
The Long and Winding Road: Transports me to the sense of accomplishment and belonging I felt at the eighth grade choir competition when our secret weapon (thirteen year old Tommy with a head full of red hair and a tenor to die for) stepped up to the microphone and flawlessly sang, “Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried, anyway you’ll never know the many times I’ve tried” As though rehearsed, the audience rose for a standing ovation and we were awarded straight 1’s. As he rounded our excited group up to board our bus for the trip back to our school, my eyes couldn’t help but take in the huge first place trophy he held protectively (or was it possessively?) in his grasp.
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me: Gives me goose bumps as I remember a balmy summer night back in 1988: my ex-fiancé and I singing along with the radio and singing to each other as we sat in his bright yellow Toyota in the parking lot at the beach. I can’t remember who was Elton John and who was George Michael, but I remember thinking, Yes! This is the one, he’s on key, knows all the words and is actually singing them to me! This is soooo romantic! I might even…
Okay now y’all didn’t think I was gonna finish that thought did ya? LOL.
Now don’t make me think that the mythical character Max and I are the only ones with memory joggers. What jogs your memory?
[ii] Which is why it is so important that we guard our souls. Guard our souls you ask? Yes. We need to take stock of what we hear constantly, what may seem harmless, funny even. Because whether we realize it or not, what we hear constantly becomes a seed planted in us that can later be watered. Our soul has no filter it just ingests data and the filter then becomes our connection with the Holy Spirit. The more we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit the more we are able to filter out the unwanted data, however if there’s little or no connection with the Holy Spirit, then our unawakened spirit has a whole lotta work to do trying to filter unwanted data on its own.
[iii] Oh wow! Lightbulb! I think I just connected my aversion to the beach and sand between my toes to this memory as its source. Phewww… that’s why I love this business of writing.
[iv] The island’s uneven terrain had most houses on stilts.