Friday, September 14, 2012

An Experiment

she may or may not have been right
written by Naomi T. 
all rights reserved

The music books were from her great-grandmother. Approximately, 20 books and pieces of sheet music; some of it was falling to pieces but some of it was still sturdy and looked brand-new. She was the first cousin who had shown a passion for music, so her Grandmother offered her the books. She promised she would take care of them.

The sentimental value made all the books a priceless treasure to her. When she wasn't agonizing over math problems and delighting in grammar, she would sit at the organ and look at the music. When cleaning bathrooms or vacuuming floors beckoned to her, she would reluctantly drag herself away. But not before she would carefully put the books back in the bench and vigorously threaten caution her many younger siblings to never touch. Well, maybe when she was there to oversee the touching.

School was home, church was home and aside from a few outside the close circle, friends and enemies were siblings. The relatives lived 12 hours away so they only saw the grandparents once a year and the cousins almost never. Life was always busy, always full. They weren't supposed to feel lonely, but she was given to thought, always. Sometimes in her secret heart, the music books were a connection to family and to her past. When she touched them, she imagined that she was enveloped by a connection. A connection of what? She wasn't sure, but it was a good feeling.

Such excitement. Close friends were going to spend a day with them, over the weekend. The house and it's inhabitants were swept away in excitement and a whirlwind of activity. Her mother and father would have been so mortified if people saw their home in any other state but spotless. Pies and breads were baked all day, butter was churned and ice-cream was made. Since her father had no regular work, he could stay home all day and wash the outsides of the windows high on the house. Her mother complimented him as he spent hours make sure there were no streaks left.

The visit was fun. They didn't often get visitors and these were especially welcome. A few hours into it, she suddenly remembered her priceless treasure. She simply had to show one of the girls as she was certain this individual would appreciate the value of it. She selected one of her favorite pieces, which she could only play a little and asked the girl if she could play it. Her friend seemed to be taken aback: of course she would never play this type of music. It was not Christian or God honoring; it was bad music.

It was embarrassing. She felt her face get very red and her stomach started aching. Her mother had been listening in on the conversation as well and she could see her embarrassment as well. How could she have been so stupid? Of course, it was an old folk song. She forgot that no one was even sure if classical music was God honoring. She hurriedly put the sheet music away. The rest of the visit went well and as the minutes passed pleasantly, she forgot all about her stomach ache and her face went back to it's regular color.

The visitors left and the house seemed empty. The girl and her family were all laughing and talking in the afterglow. All was well until her mother looked at her in consternation. She had remembered the music incident. She recounted it to the entire family. The stomach ache came back and the girl left the room quietly. The storm would leave sometime but she had no desire to stay until it's conclusion. It was too embarrassing.

She brought one book upstairs with her, to look at. It was a small book of old cowboy songs and the lyrics interested her. She imagined her great-grandmother playing and singing the songs. She played an organ too. But did she sing? What did her voice sound like?

Hours later, she slipped downstairs to play the organ and comfort herself with more music. She opened the bench. And stopped. Only two pieces of sheet music and a book remained. Even as it did, her mind couldn't understand. She shut the bench, turned slowly away and went to the basement. There were three large garbage cans. She opened the first one. Her music. It was ripped and piled recklessly on the rest of the garbage.

She heard a noise. Her father was standing in the doorway.  Maybe he was trying not to smile, but he was. He had been waiting for her. He didn't say anything. Why? she asked. Because it's frivolous and not God honoring, he replied. His smile disappeared. She can't remember what else she said, but it was something about him not having any right. Or something. She remembers being shocked that he hadn't asked before throwing away her property. But I'm your father, he said. I don't have to ask. She remembers wondering if she could send it back to her Grandmother. But as ripped as it was, she hadn't kept her promise. She was so angry that he didn't let her keep her promise. She ran upstairs and upstairs and upstairs... She slammed the door.

Her body hit her bed with a soft thump and she curled into tight ball, ignoring her sisters. She was too mad to cry. For 20 minutes she stayed like this. Then she started thinking. Will I die from this? No. Should I have allowed my emotions to rule me? No. Will they tell Grandma about this? No. Will she ever know? Maybe when I'm older and I am brave enough to tell her. Does dad know best? No, I don't think so. I'm trying to see it but I can't. Will my opinion matter to him? No. Do I have other things I don't want him to throw away? Yes! There are three pieces left. And I have my books. He could make me do anything because he is stronger and he is my father. Thank goodness I brought the one book upstairs with me.

Still laying on the bed, she carefully hid it between the mattress and box spring. Her best course of action, she decided, was to forget her injured heart for the time being. She would go apologize, even though she was still really angry and didn't think he was right. She knew if she didn't, he would take away the rest of the music. So, she went. She was humble. She was quiet. She didn't look him in the eye because she was afraid he would see she wasn't sincere. She was also afraid she would start to cry. She wouldn't cry in front of him.

There were a few things she was truly sorry for. She wished she had more self control. She wished she had asked him calmly about the music and she wished he hadn't heard the door slam. And though thinking was her life, she rather wished she could accept his ruling and not think. Acceptance makes life so much easier. So does not thinking.

He accepted her apology with graciousness fit for a king. I'm glad you came around, he admitted. I was afraid I was going to have to throw away the rest of your books. She shook her head mutely. He patted her on the shoulder and walked away with a spring in his step.

She went to the organ bench, opened it and and took out the remainder of her music. Upstairs in her corner of the room, she sat on her bed and placed them on her bookshelf -- in broad sight. When everyone had forgotten the incident, she would hide it well. But first things first: she didn't want any attention directed towards the non-God honoring book hidden under her mattress. I'm too clever for my own good, she thought. Suddenly she wished that she didn't have to be.

She realized that just to be safe, she would have to be more careful with her things. She would try to not let people see when she liked something. She would pretend to not care about anything that her parents did not care about. She would insulate her feelings. It was safer not to trust anyone. She would fail sometimes. But she had to start somewhere.

 She felt that lonely feeling again.


Elisabeth said...

This brings up old feelings.

Naomi T. said...

Yes. An old memory that I had been avoiding for awhile. It feels healing to set it out in the open.

Megan Lofgren said...

I'm sorry. So sad.

You write beautifully.

Naomi T. said...

Thank you, Megan.