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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 18

That Pause Before the Pie

Regardless of what senses are involved, it’s the moment after they can simply take or give no more that brings a smile. Whether it’s the finale of fireworks on the 4th of July, the long last note of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” or the last forkful of a holiday feast, it’s in the instant afterwards, when the full weight of passing pleasure settles in, that our eyes see best what they treasure most.

See if it is not so the next time your sense of sight or taste or touch is running over and love is there to soak it in. It’s in these moments of pause th
at the tie that binds is strengthened for the days when senses are not stirred. It is the dailiness of life that tests us all. And so it is with worship or amorous affection or fireworks or family feasts alike—there comes a need to join together, to celebrate, to let our senses overflow. It’s then we learn to look beyond our want, beyond our fullness, beyond ourselves to a kind of love that endures need and plenty and loneliness.

We’re prone to forget these things, but pausing at such times may lend new meaning to that awkward lull in the conversation at the end of family feasts when sighs and smiles settle down to silence until someone breaks it with the question: Will it be pumpkin or pecan pie?

On that Thanksgiving Day in 1951, as Dad sat around the table with Mom's family, they all decided to wait a while before cutting the pies. They stepped through the broad round archway that led from the dining room to the front living room.

There in the floor of the archway, above the coal furnace below, was the only source of heat for the entire house. The metal grate was the size of a folded card table and had the smooth, dark patina of decades of foot traffic. Freshly stoked, the grate was too hot to stand on in stocking feet, but it was a family habit for those wearing slippers or shoes to pause there to soak in some heat before moving on. ............. [This human toaster held two or three adults [or four to five kids]comfortably.]

The couch was crowded, the two easy chairs filled, so Mom pulled out the piano bench from the old upright on the staircase wall.

"That's right. Play us a piece, Beverley," said my Grandma Spencer.

Mom was no prodigy, but as a child she had been prodded through tap dancing lessons, piano lessons, and the Drum and Bugle Corp to boot. With that fine résumé, she had spent endless hours tap dancing on the porch or playing her latest "piece" on the piano. But Mom didn't mind. In fact, the visit would not have been complete without taking requests from around the room as she had done all her life.

She opened the piano bench and began to dig through layers of sheet music.

Piano benches are the most forgotten space in a house. They are miniature attics of sorts. Years gather there. Memories of music from various stages of our lives. Songs that became a part of "home" and unknowingly a part of life's sound track. It's all there in the bench. ... [If you have an old piano in your house, see for yourself if this isn't so.]

She picked out a handful of old favorites. I should mention here, that because she grew up with her grandparents and parents under the same small roof, Mom's favorites spanned three generations. If those she loved "loved" a song, she loved it, too. Mom would later pass along to us her gift of treasuring old songs.

She pulled something for everyone from the bench: "In the Evening by the Moonlight," "My Blue Heaven," [Hear MBH here] "Bell Bottom Trousers," [Dad was Navy Reserve and Richert would soon join the Navy. Hear BBT here] and "Give Yourself a Pat on the Back." She ended with her mom's favorites: "It's Three O'Clock in the Morning" then took one more request from Dad Collinge, the Missouri Waltz, a Ragtime hit from his teen years. It had become popular again in 1949, when the new President Truman played it on the piano in a newsreel. One day shortly after that, Grandma slid the music on the piano in front of Mom and said, "Here's a piece to play for Dad."

Long before Thanksgiving Day, 1951, my mother had learned to find joy in pleasing those she loved, but she also knew how to play her hand. After embellishing the last note of Missouri Waltz with some improvised left-hand chords, she spun her legs to the side of the bench and said, “I don't know about you, but I’m ready for some pie!”

[Since I have not yet figured out how to play music behind my posts, if you have a moment, open this post in two different windows. In one of them, open this link to that old "tie that binds" hymn." Turn your sound on. Listen to the simple piano tune and imagine an old upright piano playing in the front room of a gray clapboard house on Forest and Riverview in Port Huron, Michigan, circa 1951. As that plays, go to the other “window” and re-read the first three paragraphs of this post. May that be the feeling you sense behind all of the music we enjoy this beautiful Christmas season.]


Blogger Cris said...

I've been away for a little while, but I'm now all caught up on the "Duncan Phyfe" story. I got a couple of chuckles out of Chapter 17 when you mentioned what the Hell-O-o response meant and about the "not telling". LOL. I can't wait to read more. :)

27/11/07 12:28 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

Well written as usual. One almost feels like one was there.

27/11/07 5:27 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It's that time of year when we all rightfully have other things on our mind. I do hope to be posting every few days until I wrap this story up for the holidays. You'd have to know my grandma (who is still alert enough to laugh about that detail in Ch. 17) to know that such things really did happen. =)

Dr. John,
I am surprised how vividly I remember that old house and the way this cast of characters interacted, but it's very encouraging to know a reader can see it, too.

27/11/07 6:36 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

You continue to paint a beautiful story here and your interesting side notes are just as artistic as the story itself.

I love "Blest Be the Tie"... we sang it at the end of the twins baptism on Sunday morning and enjoyed hearing again here. Great memories!

27/11/07 7:16 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It's a hymn not often sung anymore. Some may recall it is also used in Act II of Our Town. I use the phrase here for family ties rather than church ties, but it harkens back to a day when they were nearly one in the same.

Thanks for the thought about the side notes. Last Thursday, my mom was with us at the table and we were joking about those lulls that come naturally in conversations, so I wanted to add these thoughts to this chapter.

27/11/07 10:03 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

i'll have pumpkin. lol

my family is so scattered now; i really miss those times when we were all together sitting around singing, playing games, etc.

if you want the instructions for the music player tom, just let me know and i'll write them down.

2/12/07 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things I like about this story is the way some of the chapters or posts make me think about life and then they just go on like it is part of the plot. I keep falling behind, but I needed this today. Thank you, Tom
the other anonymous

3/12/07 2:52 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I chose pumpkin, too, with a dollop of whipped cream. I'll have pecan at Christmas time.
I may get those instructions from you some time.

Other Anon,
Glad this was meaningful today. I've never attempted anything quite like this writing project. Some might say it's working; some might say it's a disastrous compilation of good intentions. I'm too close to it to know what it is, but I hear the voices of those I love in it; I see places I haven't been in years; and the plot is gently tangled with other thoughts I'm sorting through these days. It is very reassuring to know that some of it makes sense to others.

3/12/07 8:15 PM  

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