I want to tell you about the day my Mother was darning socks and I heard her singing a song I hadn’t heard before. I was drawn to it by a bittersweet haunt between melody and lyrics that made joy and sadness spasm as if uncomfortably sharing a common thread.
I listened while she sang it and then we discussed it. And this is what my Mother said.
She said it was a very old song (written in 1823), well known and often sung. She told me that it was a song of longing that soldiers hummed, to seek comfort, in dark, damp trenches, while thinking of dear parents or a young sweetheart.
It wasn’t necessary for her to tell me it was a song that blended memories – polishing the past and shining up the now. I could see evidence of that when she spoke to me with dewdrops in her eyes, yet contentment in her voice.
A song about the sweetest ease of mind, despite all our longings for something better. Magical words that made three generations melded together in one tiny place, tumbling over each other, more compelling than any roomy apartment. And though the expression of the song is to restore old memories, it erases unpleasant ones like waking up with hair and blankets frozen to the wall and walking to school – uphill both ways.
And there was something in our discussion about it being a song that pulled prodigals back to God and away from wasteful living. And how it tendered warm love of one’s youth, grandparents now gone, and her own feeble mother at a distance too great for her to hope to visit her.
It emulsified emotions and magically blended, through complete simplicity, enough good memories with the bad to make all of life, from birth to death, the sweetest concoction.
It was a surprising discussion and I still remember the conclusion.
“I guess it’s a song that mends unholy hearts the way I mend hole-ee socks,” my Mother said, with wet eyes and a smile.
Do you know what the song was? Try and guess and if you can’t, you’ll find a bit of it in the comments section. If you understand contentment, you won’t be surprised.