A Change of Acoustics

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The day was not off to a promising start. My three little angels had had me up eight times in seven hours. And instead of sleeping in, they woke up before I managed to accomplish anything in my early-morning work time.

And they couldn’t pick a low-stress day to do it, either. No, this Memorial Day weekend was one of our busy weekends: two weddings, air show, golf, a room to paint. I sent Christian off to enjoy his outing and dragged the kids, kicking and screaming, to the farmer’s market and the grocery store.

(Let me interject that whoever invented the side-by-side double stroller should have his or her head examined. Little ones will find ways to torment each other in any case, but being side by side is just enabling!)

And don’t even get me started on grocery carts with cars on the front, and coexisting in those. Or, for that matter, on little girls enamored of their independence. How can you concentrate on grocery shopping when your three-year-old who can’t talk disappears every thirty seconds? I begin to understand the appeal of those stupid baby leashes 

By the time we got home, I just wanted them all to take naps. At 9:30 in the morning. (Riiiiiight.) So I did the next best thing. I put one down for nap and set the other two up with computer game and video. In separate rooms. Where no one could push, get in the other’s face, or take toys from each other. And I went to clean the house.

I often pause on the morning of a wedding gig to reflect on the difference between a wedding day and The Wedding Day. For the couple, the parents, and many of the guests, this day consumes every waking moment. We the musicians, on the other hand, are frequently still unshowered and frantically cleaning the house up till half an hour before we leave.

Well, anyway. By noon, I was in a foul mood: running on fumes, mad at my kids, and ready to vent the whole putrid mess on the first adult to express sympathy obligated to listen. In other words, my husband. Only I couldn’t. Because if I did, it would ruin the enjoyment of his morning, and he’d feel guilty for leaving me with the mess.

So I swallowed it. Mostly.

Two hours later, I stood at the ambo singing the psalm. And all of a sudden, something changed. I had sung this same psalm a week earlier at our own parish and barely registered the beauty of the melody, the prayer in the words: Lord, here I am, I have come to do your will. Here I stand; send me forth, I long to do your will.

Maybe it was the change of acoustics. Lourdes is a very neutral space in which to sing. Live enough, but muted by wall panels, so the noise of our parish’s many, many children doesn’t overwhelm all else. Singing in the Newman Center, on the other hand, feels a lot like singing in the basketball arena—wide open and zinging with reverberation.

Or maybe it was because I was standing in the church where we were married, singing the psalm that Lesley had sung at our wedding, ten years and some change earlier.

All I know is that after that psalm, the day was different.

The wedding finished early enough that we decided to complete the grocery shopping on the way home. We walked into Aldi in flowing, beaded gauze and tuxedo tails, and chuckled as eyes widened and followed us. We were like newlyweds. We laughed, we teased, we joked our way through the grocery store, free of the usual weight we carry.

Sometimes the weight of the future frightens me. I know that every little snip and snap that I allow past my lips today multiplies into mean-spiritedness and hatefulness in the future, and that within the busy-ness of parenthood, we must be an active partner in renewing our marriage. Sex and an occasional date just don’t cut it. Lip service to God as a partner doesn’t cut it. We still have to make those daily choices, even when our spouse doesn’t reciprocate. When I hear about couples like the Gores, splitting after forty years, I have to admit to a niggling doubt. I’m not satisfied with a marriage that merely lasts. I want us to be more in love at eighty than we were at twenty-five.

But afternoons like that day at Aldi, following the wedding, remind me that it is possible. We just have to look for ways to tweak the acoustics of our life together, and hear the music in a new way. And in doing so, we rediscover ourselves.

9/4/99