The Art of Listening

“Can you clear some of the stuff out of the attic?” my husband asks. “I need to fix that cracked window. The clutter’s in my way.” “I’ll go through it,” I promise. I sit down on an old stepladder in the attic on a rainy autumn afternoon. It’s not long before I’ve managed to fill several large black garbage bags with old clothing, chipped dishes, dusty, yellowing books and broken children’s toys that sit in decaying cardboard boxes. I sigh at the sad lot stored with memories. To me they are not mere clutter, but the history of a family. I notice my mother’s record player and her favorite albums tucked away in a cobwebbed corner. I don’t know why I’ve saved them. The sight fills me with nostalgic emotion. My mother had dove gray irises that lit up when she listened to music. Her eyes would become radiantly ethereal, the stuff of moonbeams. Music was purely magical for her, the musician an alchemist transmutating leaden sound into golden sonority. My mother actually liked listening to many types of music, but jazz was her favorite. She played the piano and had a lovely contralto voice. I inherited a strong singing voice and a love of music from her. We often sang, performing together at home, her playing the piano, myself accompanying on the guitar. Many of my best childhood...

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