My mother had many talents and one of them was singing. She loved to sing and I’d often accompany her on the piano. After dinner when everyone else in the house was upstairs doing homework or watching TV I’d be downstairs practicing the piano. The distance created a barrier and I felt shielded enough to practice, iron out those mistakes and even cry when I just couldn’t reach perfection.
My bubble of silence could be punctured by my father shouting from somewhere in the house…”you’re flat” or “keep the rhythm”, as if I was deaf to my own mistakes. “I know!” I’d yell back. I’m sure he thought he was helping but he wasn’t the one playing.
On some nights my father was silent. On those nights after playing my tunes I’d pull out songs my mother liked. From the kitchen I could hear plates being moved around, water running, the groan of the garbage disposal and her voice. Strong, sure and middle of the keyboard. A stage performer at heart. Maybe the kitchen was her private bubble. She never wanted us to help.
There was one song in particular that would always get her out of the kitchen and to the piano with me: On A Clear Day by Burton Lane. After years of singing and playing together I knew where she breathed and how she phrased lyrics. I could help her find notes and read the music.
But on this tune she was a master. It was no longer a song with lyrics but the truth.
When these days seem unclear I’m at the piano with my mother.
On a Clear Day (You can see forever)
words by Alan Jay Lerner/ Music by Burton Lane
On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you’ll see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
that the glow of your being outshines every star.
You feel part of every mountain, sea and shore
You can hear, from far and near, a world you’ve never heard before
And on a clear day, On that clear day
You can see forever and ever and ever and ever more.