This is a picture of my cousin Raymond who died unexpectedly this week. But this blog is not really about him. Since I heard the news, I’ve been playing this song in my car. When I saw Ray recently I asked him if he knew the song. It’s about Homer, Alaska where Ray lived. He did. I imagine there aren’t many songs about Homer.
I asked him if Alice’s Champagne Palace was a real bar. He said it was and that we could go there next summer when I finally take my trek to Alaska.
What it got me thinking about was the power of music. Ray was a musician, but I doubt he ever played that tune. I remember him best on Christmas Eve playing the banjo or tackling Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” on the piano with energetic fingers.
Those Christmas Eves at the Garrity’s created a strong fabric in the tapestry of my childhood and music was an important thread.
It still is.
At Nanny and Grandpa’s (dad’s side) there was a piano in the foyer. You could find my Uncle Sam tickling the ivories with just about any song (he was a professional pianist), ending with a rendition of “As Time Goes By” , so that we could predictably respond “Play it again Sam.
Occasionally Nanny would be on the bench clunking out “Rustic Dance”, the only piece she knew.
Nanny’s basement housed a pipe organ, the actual church organ kind. Who has such a thing? I have no idea how they got it in there and it had to be sold with the house.
At Grammy and Papa’s (mom’s side) there was another organ, though of a more typical variety, where you could find Grammy (known by most as Dolly) teaching herself a new song. Evenings would bring many of her organ friends who’d take turns taking it for a whirl. I remember sitting in the living room watching Hector Olivera play “The Flight of the Bumblebee” on the foot pedals with lighting feet (truly something to watch).
A player piano was tucked in the basement with stacks of music rolls to select from. No talent needed for the player piano, just secure the roll and start pedaling. My brother would hop up on the stool and pedal furiously his tow head hair flopping as he sped up to make “The Alley Cat” barely recognizable.
Sad, celebratory or even mundane, music provides the soundtrack of our lives.
I can’t hear The Eagles sing “Hotel California” without remember getting my first (and only) cavity filled. My hubby put on Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” when he proposed. And The Big Chill soundtrack makes me think of my dad and smile.
Life is short and precious, and the music of our lives makes it even sweeter.
What’s on the soundtrack of your life?