I lost and found Ella

The musical chamber of my heart was aching for a melody which was drifting  around somewhere in my mind space.  At first, a little persistent tune humming its way through.  Then a few melodic phrases; “silver buttons all down her back, to see the elephant jump the fence, she jumped so high she touched the sky.”  Finally, Miss Mary Mack, all dressed in black came streaming from my mouth while the rest of me folded clothes and did numerous chore things.

The voice I tried to imitate when I warbled belonged to a wonderful children’s folk singer from Chicago whose name, for the life of me, I could not recall.  I was however, able to  instantly remember every word to every song from her album which played over and over on the plastic record player when my children were young.  As grandmothers often do, I obsessed over making sure that my grandchildren know this woman and her uniquely warm, giggly, fun, beautiful, interactive, music.

Google and I found her – Ella Jenkins!  Need I say how thrilled I am?  I even found a few YouTube videos of this grand lady, her Website, Facebook page and a picture of the beloved album cover along with how to order the CD on Amazon.com.  It’s times like these that I really love technology.  Guess what my grandchildren are getting for Christmas?

The Story-teller

Art class, first grade. She is given an assortment of various colored wads of play-dough. The assignment, to make fruit for a basket.  Enthusiastically, she grabs the yellow lump and starts rolling the squishy damp clay back and forth in her happy little hands, watching it transform into a snake-like rope. The teacher, (term used loosely  here), is giving instructions which the exuberant girl chooses to tune out, being fully absorbed in crafting the worlds most beautiful banana.

The teacher fumes across the room, hovers over the puzzled child, yanks the fruit from its creator and holds it up for all to see, saying something about not paying attention and how this is EXACTLY WHAT NOT TO DO.  Blatant condemnation vanishes the dream of a little girl who believed for a brief moment that she was an artist.

I dreaded art lessons from that day forward but found creative release in music class. Music was my magic carpet and I rode to places of indescribable emotion and often landed to peruse its mysterious terrain.

The classroom, a few years later.  A visitor, a story-teller came to bequeath her gift.   She told us of a beautiful, clever woman, Scheherazade, who found a way to save herself from the henchman’s blade.   Scheherazade knew that the Persian king quickly tired of women sent to his chambers, and had them beheaded the morning after, so she came up with a remarkable plan.  She spun an irresistible tale of sailors and battles, monsters and genies, ending each evening when the drama reached its climactic peak.  The king kept her alive just to hear the next chapter of her narrative which continued for 1001 nights.  By then he had fallen in love with her and made her his queen (oh the power of a good story).

Then our enchanted visitor put a record on the player, a symphonic suite by Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov.  His musical interpretation of the 1001 nights (or Arabian nights) swirled in the air and transformed our classroom.  She handed out blank sheets of paper, markers and said “go”.  She granted permission for the unleashing of boundless imagination and her magical spell erased the former curse of the dreadful art teacher.

What did I think?  Where did I go.?  What did I draw?  Well, to be continued, of course.

In Love, Broke and Bruce Hornsby

The song, keenly appropriate for two love struck kids with two college loans, one maxed out credit card and one minimum wage job between them. The chorus, “Even though we aint got money, I’m so in love with you honey.” The band, a local group of high school friends from my home town.  The boy on the keyboard in the background, a future rock star.

Ask anyone from Williamsburg, Virginia who the local celebrity is and you will certainly hear, Bruce Hornsby. He is one of a gaggle of Hornsby guys who play at life and play with music and draw in friends who play with them. Bruce has taken the fruit of his legacy, and has made recordings, won a Grammy and performed around the world with every who’s who artist in the business.

On November 10th, Pepper and I celebrate our anniversary and admittedly, I post this picture as evidence to all the folks who may have doubted my claim to have had Bruce Hornsby perform at our wedding, but I’d also like to add him to my play-grand for a loftier purpose and that is to give you a mini-glimpse of his personality.

I have lost contact with many of my old friends since leaving Williamsburg but Bruce made an effort to stay in touch. He came to our home in Milwaukee for a visit while on tour and graciously made wonderful music with our daughter on a badly tuned piano. I am told that he often called on transplanted Williamsburg folks around the country, especially in his early years on the road. I saw him a while back in an airport and he introduced me to his wife and sons with the charm and ease of an old friend and he came by my mom’s house after my Dad’s funeral bringing some much-needed levity by showing us all his signed Jerry Garcia tie.

I am sure that Bruce’s days are filled with family outings, social events, numerous requests and all the glamorous and not so glamorous things that famous people do, which make the few times I’ve seen him over the years even more impressive. It seems to me that notoriety hasn’t changed him all that much. Perhaps the values of a close family, the influence and love of friends and the perspective from being raised and embraced by small caring town help him keep his head on straight, his feet on the ground and his music in the air.

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