My Little Composer

Years ago my father sometimes held revivals in small churches in southern Illinois.  Many of the churches either had no piano player (this was before the era of drums and guitars in worship) or a very untalented player.  Since he felt music was important for sharing the gospel, he came up with a solution.

He would give his daughter piano lessons and she could go with him to play at these services.

I was excited to learn to play.  Unlike most piano students who start with music books like “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano,” my book was an old hymnbook.

 

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The first song I learned to play was an OLD hymn called “When I See the Blood.”  It was written in the key of “C” with no sharps or flats and a good place to start for a beginner where I could just play on the “white” keys.

After 10 months of lessons I was quite adept at playing all the songs in the hymnbook.  My teacher said I was the best student she had ever had and she wanted to teach me classical music.  I was so excited as I started this course of study.

Shortly after a few lessons in this new genre, my father felt learning classical music was money wasted.  He wanted someone to play in church.  Who needed to know how to play Bach or Beethoven?

Although I had no more lessons as a child, I continued to study on my own and took more lessons as an adult.

My music has been such a blessing to me – and I hope to others.

When I have experienced great “highs” and great “lows” in my life, music has been a release.  I can play lively show tunes or songs of praise in times of great joy.  When I have experienced times of distress or sorrow, music has also been a place of comfort.

Now I am enjoying one of the greatest joys of my musical experience.  My little granddaughter has a love for music and for the piano.  A few months ago I started giving her lessons.  Her parents say they never have to tell her practice – she loves to play and needs no prompting to play.

What is so sweet – last week she decided to become a composer.  She has a lot of stuffed animals she calls the wolf pack and she is writing a song for them.  “The Theme of the Wolf Pack.”  Not only is she writing the music – she also has words to go with the music.

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She is not quite ready to draw the lines and the actual notes so she has just written the letter of the note and has specified in some cases if it is the right or the left hand that plays the note.  She also has a repeat bar at the end so you can go back and play for the second verse she has yet to write.

It thrills this old grandma’s heart to be able to share this love of music and pass on a little of my own knowledge to the next generation.

Who knows?  Maybe some day she will write songs of worship for her generation to praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

Papa Can Fix Anything!

My husband has a big reputation to live up to.

A few years ago our youngest granddaughter was given a beautiful carousel.  As she watched the beautiful colors and the animals go round and round she could not resist reaching out and touching them.  In the process, she broke one of them and the carousel would not work.

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Her mother and father both tried to fix it, but could not.  But she was not worried.  She told them to take it to Papa because “Papa can fix anything.”

When my husband got the carousel he knew he had to fix it because he could not disappoint the faith in him that this little girl had.

However, in his attempt to fix the carousel, he actually broke another one of the animals and now he had not one, but two errors on the carousel.

What to do?

He first went on line and tried to find the company that made the carousel to see if they had replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.  While the company still was in business, they no longer made the original carousel  and had no replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.

He then began calling all the repair shops, the jewelry stores, any place he thought might be able to help him.

After several weeks of trying to find someone to repair the carousel he saw an ad for a store that sold and repaired watches and clocks.  The store was in a small town some 30 miles north of our home.  Quickly he drove to the store with the carousel.  What a relief when the owner said he could repair it!

My husband was so glad he left the carousel with the owner without even asking what it would cost.

A couple of weeks later he got a call that the carousel was fixed.  The price tag was much higher than he had anticipated – but what price can be placed on a little girl’s faith in you.

It was worth all the effort and every penny as we watch her each Christmas still be so enchanted by the lights, the music and the animals turning round and round.

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And of course, she had to buy Papa a cup to declare how true it is that “Papa can fix anything.”

 

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Random Thoughts to Stay Awake

My youngest granddaughter spent Saturday night with us while Mom and Dad celebrated their anniversary.

She always seems to have a hard time going to sleep.  I’m not sure if her brain will just not shut down so she can sleep or if she keeps her brain going to avoid sleep.

After reading books and singing songs, I thought she would settle down.  NOT!

Every time I thought she was finally asleep she would sit up and ask some random question or make some random comment.

Such as:

Grandma, wake me up at 7 AM.

Grandma, there is a green light under the bed.  (We have an adjustable bed and there is a tiny green light which it is on.)

Grandma, turn on the jiggle. (Our bed also has vibrations for the lumbar spine and she calls it the jiggle.

Grandma, do you know what is 9 x 9?

Grandma, I forgot to say good night to Willie. (Willie is a stuffed character we play with when she is here.)

But the one that really was surprising was:

Grandma, our house looks like Picasso painted it.  (What eight-year-old has even heard of Picasso and what did she mean by that?)

I tried just ignoring her at one point but that did not work out too well.

It was “Grandma, Grandma” with each time the little voice getting louder.  Then a gentle jab on my arm.  When she still got no response the jabs became stronger and finally a gentle tap on my head.

She finally snuggled up close to me and went to sleep.

Just having her snuggled up close to me and resting next to me for the rest of the night was more than payment enough for all the questions and jabs!

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time

A memory just popped up on my Facebook page where I shared a conversation I had with my granddaughter four years ago.  So funny!  Still brings a smile.

Zoe:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus.

Me:  When Jesus was a little boy.  (Quickly interrupted by Zoe.)

Zoe:  No, Grandma, say “Once upon a time.”

Remembering Grandma

Grandma Sechrest was the only grandparent I was close to, the only one that expressed love and an interest in me.  I also related more to her because she was a red head, like me.  All my life I was told that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.   I never knew any of that side of the family.  I was told they were all “a bunch of Irish drunks.”  As I did research on my family history I discovered the Tates were not Irish but rather English.  So much for family legends.

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Grandma had a hard life, losing her husband while pregnant with her eleventh child.  He was shot by her oldest daughter’s husband, Wesley Smith.  I never was completely sure of the facts, but the two men had been arguing and Wesley had come into the yard at their house and shot Grandpa.  My father was only 14 at the time and I’m sure it caused a lot of emotional/mental damage.

Grandma was a big woman and pictures I have seen of her when she was younger indicate she was probably a big gal most of her adult life.  I have never seen a picture of her when she was young – but I always wondered what she looked like as a young girl.

She loved the fact that I also had red hair – the only grandchild that did.   As she grew older, she began to lose her eyesight to glaucoma.  When I came to visit, I  would stand in the doorway where the sun could shine on my red hair.  She also loved music and was proud that I played the piano.  I would always play the latest song I had learned on her old upright piano when we went to visit.

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She loved flowers and before she lost her eyesight her yard and house were full of flowers.  There was always a row of elephant ears planted along the house on both sides and in front.  As she began to lose her eyesight, she gave up the flowers in her yard, but she had flowers in her house until she was totally blind.  For awhile, my mother would come over and water the few plants she kept in the house even though she could not see them.  Just knowing they were there seemed to make her feel better.  It was a sad day when she finally had them take the last plants away.  My dad loved flowers too and I have often thought I get my love of flowers from them.

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When Grandpa was killed, all but two of her eleven kids were still at home and she raised them alone.  My dad and some of his brothers would often catch a train, ride to Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska to work in the wheat fields.   They would be gone for weeks on end and Grandma would have no idea where they were until they returned home after finishing the harvest.

When Grandma was in her 60’s she married a retired Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Green.  He and my Dad often spent hours arguing about “once saved, always saved.”

If Grandma got upset about something, she would begin patting her foot.  The more upset she got, the faster she patted her foot.  We grand-kids knew when Grandma was patting her foot very rapidly it might be a good time to go outside to play because she was about to speak her mind to our Dad or one of the other adults there.

It was at Grandma’s house that I saw television for the first time.  She bought a very tiny TV and I would love to watch it when we visited Grandma.  I thought she must be very rich since she could afford a TV.

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Grandma’s house always smelled of garlic and cabbage.  She loved cabbage and it seemed that she almost always had a pot of cabbage cooking on the stove.  As she began to lose her eyesight she had her salt/sugar and spices lined up on the shelf in order so that she could still find the right spice for what she was fixing.  She made great chicken and dumplings (which she taught my mother to make) and, of course, corn beef and cabbage.

As I am now a great grandmother myself I find myself thinking more and more of my childhood days.  My red hair, my love of flowers, my love of garlic and cabbage  –  Grandma lives on in me.

I wonder – what will my grandchildren remember about me when I am just a memory?  My prayer is that their memories will be good ones like mine.

Twelve Little Toy Animals, A Little Girl and a Big Imagination

A few years ago my husband and I bought our little granddaughter some toy zoo  animals.

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We assumed she would play with them for a couple of years and then we would pass them on to another small child.  We also assumed she would just play with them by herself.

Were we ever wrong!

From the very beginning she wanted someone to play with her and the animals.  In her imagination, she would take them to McDonald’s or to the playground.  Someone was needed to be their voice and order french fries for them or scream with delight as they climbed the monkey bars.

When Mom and Dad and Grandpa all declined the honor, I became their voice.  Thinking the novelty would wear off soon, I had no idea that four years later I would still be their voice.

Oh, the places we have been.

We started with trips to McDonald’s and to the park, but soon we went to even more interesting places like the museum, the mall and Kids Church.

When she began taking Taw kwon do lessons the animals also went to class.

Then there was school.

Oh the roles I have played!

  • worker at McDonalds
  • worship leader at Kids Church
  • school teacher
  • principal
  • unruly student
  • parent
  • Taw kwon do instructor
  • Taw kwon do student
  • museum curator
  • clerk at Walmart

Oh the places I have been!

  • playground
  • school
  • church
  • museum
  • Nana’s house in Missouri
  • Aunt Beka and Uncle Rob’s house in North Carolina
  • Sierra Leone

The animals have even taken on personalities and we have named them all.

  • Giraffe boy
  • Hippy Hippo
  • Charlie Cheetah
  • Ellie Elephant
  • Winnie Warthog
  • Barbara Bear
  • Ted Tiger
  • Gary Gorilla
  • Ralph Rhino
  • Lexie Lion

And the last two have really become best friends.

  • Zoe Zebra
  • Macey Moose

I think their names and their becoming BFF is probably because my granddaughter is Zoe and her BFF is Macey.  Whatever we are doing, taking a piano lesson, going to McDonald’s or on the playground at recess, these two are always together.

As she grows older the animals come out of their special home (a big plastic box) less and less.  Just when I think I am through being their voice, she pulls them out again and says with a big smile:

Grandma, let’s play with the animals!

To be honest, I do sometimes get a little tired of playing with them.  Yet I know I will miss the day when the animals are never invited out of their box to play with us.

Then, my little girl with her big imagination will be no longer little.

Hey Zoe – let’s play animals!

 

 

 

 

 

From Flip Phone to Smart Phone

This week my husband and I traded in our flip phones for a smart phone.  I have resisted doing this for some time.  It’s not that I am not computer savvy – but I must confess as I age and as the technology keeps making leaps and bounds, I fear that I will never keep up with it all

I learned to type on a Remington manual typewriter.  The only place you will see one of those now is in an antique shop.

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Excitement ran high when we found out we would get electric typewriters to use in our senior year of school.

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During my senior year they also offered a course on computers.  That class consisted of reading about the history and concept of computers.  We heard about the mathematics professor Charles Babbage who designed the Analytical Engine.  This became the basis of today’s computers.  But there were no computers for us to use.  At that time the only ones with computers were banks and large commercial firms.  The idea that someone might have a personal computer at home sounded like science fiction to the average American.

The last week of the class we visited a local bank to see their computer.  It was a huge machine in a room that had to be kept at a certain temperature.

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Data was fed into the computer inserting punch cards into the machine.

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Every time I remember that big computer and realize the smart phone my daughter holds in her hand can do so much more than that huge machine could do, I am still amazed at the progress in technology made in my lifetime.

After graduating my first job was as a bookkeeper at a local bank.  Checking accounts were divided between three bookkeepers.  I was responsible for all customers whose last names started J to P.  Every check and every deposit these customers made was posted by me using the Burroughs data processor.  Each customer had a statement that we posted debits and credits on throughout the month.  At the end of the month we printed out the statements, gathered all the checks and deposit slips and mailed them to the customers.   We had to memorize the signature of our customers and before posting any check we examined it to make sure it was signed by our customer.  If we had any doubt we would pull out their signature card and make a comparison.  If still in doubt we would give the customer a call to confirm they had written the check.

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Finally, at age 36 I used my first computer.  Starting a job as a legal secretary for a junior partner in a law firm, I was told the firm had just switched out their electric typewriters to word processors about six months before.  Having no experience with word processors I came in on a Saturday morning and spent about 30 minutes with the secretary I was replacing to learn how to use the processor.  Monday morning I was off – secretary to a very busy upcoming lawyer using a word processor with no experience as either a legal secretary or with a word processor.  Needless to say, it was a BIG learning experience.  Thankfully I am a fast learner and the job became my favorite in my work career.

Since that time there has continued to be new and exciting milestones for me in this rapidly changing technology world.

  • The day the law firm got email on their computers.  We could only email one another within the firm.
  • The day we got email that could go beyond our own personal system and we could communicate with other law firms and businesses.
  • The day I got my own personal computer at home.  It was just a word processing machine.
  • The day I got a computer that could handle all kinds of programs like Publisher, Excel and I could go on the internet.

While I struggle to stay on top of all these changes – and I think I do pretty good for a woman in her 70’s – I fear the day it all gets more than I can do.

But, if and when that happens, I have my own little computer expert, my granddaughter Zoe.  When she was only four years old she sat by her Papa as he opened up children’s songs on YouTube and showed her the videos.  She kept trying to reach over and touch the keyboard and he kept telling her to stop.  Finally, she managed to get around his hands and reach the keyboard.  To his surprise she touched a key that opened up the tiny window showing the song to a full screen picture!  Then and there he realized this four-year-old was probably much more computer savvy than he was.

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