She drew the bow through amber wax and rubbed the strings up and back, over the curve of callused wood where ivory skin and chin relaxed, pressed firm the tail to shoulder graceful.
I saw Mother's eyes flash fiery flecks, reflect the flames of fire that leapt high from the hearth with woody sap snapping loud behind us; and then she closed them, dark lashes fanning crests over milky cheeks tilted low, with the smooth of her hair escaping in auburn tress, and she becoming one with her music.
Buttery strains shushed the dark as slender hands fiddled Silent Night with a soothing legato, soft as a baby's hush-a-bye, resonating fifths and lilting lifts, notes curling warm and floating to rest lush like our bed of downy goose-feathers, and us on our knees at the foot to bless Jesus.
Like flakes we drifted dazed in the lull, adoring, our eyes--four little-boy brown and my girlish blue--hung bright like stars on strings as we beheld their beauty, she smiling honey, and he dazzling, strong, leaning together, our breath caught and held forever in their love song.
Dad started first with smooth Irish tenor, and Mother joined dulcet in cheery, rich alto. The two became one as they harmonized holy an ancient story--words dripping heaven shine, golden alms for the poor--God's Son born in a manger, a mother's gift given for all mankind, for love and light and peace and laughter.
And chills ran wild along my skin, and tears lay bitter-sweet on cheeks again waiting for Mother-lips to wipe them clean. And long the years of lonely after she passed, and long the waiting for another glimpse of song or bow or smile or touch, and only in the remembering...
All was calm. All was bright. All was good that Christmas night when Dad and dear Mother sang carols joyous to their wee ones. The boys and I, we huddled close and dozed, wrapped warm in soothing melody, before we lay our heads on downy soft, all three tucked tight with hugs and prayers and dreams of hope to lead us.
I wrote this in honor of my grandmother, whom I loved, and my great-grandmother, whom she loved, two oldest daughters growing up with the name, Mildred, two brave women gracing gentle in their strength.
My mom is Mildred too, but goes by her middle name, Darlene--Tenderly Beloved. And she is. An oldest daughter, I was supposed to be Mildred. Mom stayed with the M's and gave me Melissa instead--Honeybee. And so I am. (Thank you, Mom! I love you.)
Both my grandmother and great-grandmother died prematurely from cancer, the eldest leaving behind her adoring girl, barely into her teens, and two little boys still needing a mother's touch. I know this woman only from the smile she left in a black and white portrait and the stories told by her children--my grandmother and great-uncles.
She was one who loved and loved to give. She prayed and sang, made music with a violin along side her husband in church and at weddings. She passed on a legacy to the generations--four so far, all who hear the sweet strains--a rich deposit of love for her God and mankind.
Her violin now rests on the shiny wood of my dad's and mom's entrance table, a cherished symbol of our musical heritage. Four strings run tight with a strength that perseveres. A stringed bow lying still on its side sings of gentle hands that once fiddled and folded in prayer over her children. They touch us now--in spirit--with the hope of a Song of life and love that endures forever. Love--I pray today, we, her daughters and sons, will keep playing and praying and passing it on.
Happy Christmas, everyone.
Photo Courtesy: flickr - Luz A. Villa