today would have been my mother’s 80th birthday

April 9th. That date has stuck with me all my life for it was my mother’s birthday.

An Aries, she was assertive and friendly but knew who and what she liked or did not. She loved flowers and nature and breakfast at Frisch’s. Once, after my stepfather died, she joined me on a trip to the San Francisco Bay area. I still have the photo of us riding the boat to Alcatraz. I have many fond memories of that trip. But that’s another posting.

This morning I thought, what could I do to honor her birthday? I have kept an altar to her in my meditation room with some photos, candles, and flowers. I decided an arati (waving of a tray with flowers and candle in devoted honor to someone, usually a guru) would be appropriate. I thought, what tune, what chant or hymn? What spontaneously issued from my mouth was “Happy Birthday to You . . .” I had to smile; it was appropriate, after all, for it would always be her birthday even if her physical self and body were no longer here. Then I remembered a tune described as a zen Buddhist hidden message and sang “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.” I appreciate these reminders from time to time so as to not take my self so seriously and get on with the important things in my life.

One special gift the Universe has brought into my life lately is an accordion. Actually, I’ve had it since shortly after mom’s death. My sister Linda let me have it, after I expressed interest. Before I, her first born entered this world, Irene Shirley Drees played accordion with a group of young women (I have a picture to prove it!). Although this accordion is not that original one — I believe it to be one she picked up at a yard sale much later — still, there will always be this association of accordions with my mother. So it’s been sitting in my meditation room closet (ironically) and just a week or so ago, I remembered it and brought it out. I expected to hear wheezy sounds and dust and a dilapadated condition but, lo and behold, the accordion seemed pretty intact. She looked lovely, too, silvery blue with white (ivory?) keys. What a complicated instrument, truly.

Now I don’t know how to read music, really, but I seem to have had a past life talent musically that has manifested these past two years. At the meditation group I go to, Scott discovered I had a nice voice, then he invited me to learn harmonium. The live chants of kirtan I have participated in have added tremendously to my spiritual practice. I am bhakti through and through.

So how does the accordion fit into all this? Well, I took a chant I played on harmonium and messed around with the accordion keyboard. It’s a quite complicated instrument with bellows and another side of little black buttons for bass but oh so cool. Positively gypsy! And I discovered some free instructional videos on YouTube. This guy explains the parts of an accordion in plain English. I intend to have fun with this new challenge!

So, Mom, if you’re watching from somewhere — and listening — I’m sure I’ll make you smile as you hear your daughter’s trials and tribulations with the musical instrument of your choice. Happy Birthday, Mom!

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