They had seen me like this before,
but already they were trying to forget.
For some reason, we put off going there as long as we could. That is to say, the rest of the family put off going there for as long as they could. As for me, if I could have, I would have lived there. Maybe that is one of the reasons the rest of them were continually trying to avoid the place.
I had not discovered it on my own. To be honest, my friend Della was the one who told me about it. “They have everything you could possibly need,” she said, “And then some!” Which was pretty accurate.
On the few occasions I had gone there alone, I had a tendency to get lost in the place, happily meandering from one station to another, until one of the sales clerks would finally notice me and ask if I was looking for anything in particular.
Well, yes, and no. Because the drive from home to there was always so long, I always traveled there to buy something specific that I could find nowhere else. But because the store itself was so beautiful and inviting, I had partly come just to enjoy being there. I looked upon it as a kind of personal retreat: my own little piece of heaven.
If only my family could have seen it the same way I did! Whereas it is true they did not exactly hate the place, and they didn’t seem to mind spending a minimum of time inside it while I shopped, they just didn’t love it the way I did. They never went there without me, but by this time, could no longer afford to send me there by myself.
No matter. At least we were there. But we were there for only one thing. My husband reminded me that we were there for only one thing. I told him it wouldn’t take long.
As we started walking once again into the biggest musical superstore I had ever seen, though I was practically bouncy with excitement, I told myself that I would not look at piano music, or harp music, or hymnals, or small portable, stocking-stuffing instruments. Neither was I there to soak up the music which was playing through the speakers, to inquire about said music, or seek out unplanned sheet music or books. All I needed was a flute recorder book for my daughter, Lizzie, so that I would not have to let go of mine.
Having owned a flute recorder since my teenage years, I had, nevertheless, begun to play it consistently only recently because it was initially harder than it looked. Several books, combined with advice from a couple of wood-wind-playing friends had produced only spotty results in my college years, and I had reluctantly laid the instrument aside, thinking that all hope for me was lost. At least as far as flute recorders were concerned. However, after much frustration and many false starts, I stumbled across the one book that unlocked the instrument through gentle, easy increments.
In a short time, I had passed the point of no return, and these days, my new flute recorder, “Pinky, the Ruby-Red-Grapefruit-Hot-Pink Flute Recorder”, aka “Pinky”, and I were seldom separated, especially on road trips. While my husband drove, I would happily toot out little songs as the kids tried to pretend they didn’t know me and were actually traveling to their destination in a different vehicle.
In reality, to my chagrin Lizzie was not terribly keen to part me from my flute recorder book, much less spend time with the flute recorder we had bought for her years earlier. This might have actually been a wasted trip, save for the joy that it brought directly to me. But, if Lizzie was going to spend several days with my parents all the way over in Texas, I was going to make sure she had plenty to do in her free time. With or without her happy consent, I would be packing her flute recorder into her suitcase, along with the book from which Lizzie and her sister Rachel and I had been playing sporadically in our unofficial afternoon “Flute Recorder Club”. Up to this point, both the girls had moved slightly beyond the squawky-phase. I had hoped that they might even step into the joyful phase. Although it had not happened yet, there might still be hope. Doggedly, I held onto that hope.
The rest of the family walked freely into the store, ready to browse without making any hefty emotional or – more to the point, financial – commitments, as dutifully, I began walking toward the flute recorder music section. “Best in Class” ought to be fairly easy to find.
We could have saved a lot of time and trouble by simply photocopying the book in our hometown, pocketing the money we were now about to spend not only for the book, but also for gas and snacks for the all-afternoon trip. But, remembering how photocopying copyrighted materials was actually stealing, and considering how Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, even our music-producing neighbors, instead of stealing from them, I had justified the trip in my mind. My husband had graciously agreed, notwithstanding the inconvenience and expense. He was about to be rewarded for his trouble: I was surprised to learn that the cost of the book itself was comparable to what we would have spent by illegally photocopying it.
Eagerly, I trekked over to Sergei and the kids to have them hold the book while I looked for the bathroom. Though it was unlikely, I told myself there was always a chance one of them might also find something they wanted to buy before we left.
When I came out just a few minutes later to look for everyone, they had mysteriously disappeared. In a store that size, this should not have surprised me. But I was a little worried.
A minute later, however, all worries of abandonment had evaporated. Without meaning to, I had wandered into a section of the store I had never seen before: a corner set aside specially for small wooden xylophones. Oh, such beauty! Such craftsmanship! Not a flaw to be seen anywhere in the perfectly-shaped silent music boxes right before my eyes. And someone had helpfully left out a pair of rubber-tipped mallets.
Tentatively, I tapped out an octave scale on the small, light-colored (I want to say, yellowish) instrument on the table in front of me. It had a good-enough tone, albeit higher than I wanted to hear. Certainly, it was not the instrument to capture my heart in this display. Turning away from the first xylophone, I stopped to stare for a moment at a beautiful mahogany job to my right hand resting on a shelf slightly above my eye level. Having a bigger sound-box, it would, of course, have the deeper voice I was seeking. If the wood was not actually mahogany, it was probably walnut, my wood of choice in the two small harps I played. This particular xylophone was oriented backward, so that the scale would be started on the right side of the instrument, instead of the left. But, having seen and played toy xylophones all my life, I figured I already knew what I was doing. At any rate, I was not about to move it from the shelf. Dropping it, or even giving it a good jolt would be an $800+ mistake from which there would be no easy or quick recovery.
I looked around. I was still, somehow, alone in this section of the store, as yet undiscovered by the rest of my family. The beautiful large xylophone seemed to be calling me, and my hands, still holding the mallets, were quivering with anticipation.
Glancing around once more, I decided to take the plunge.
Deep, resonant notes of “Jesus Loves Me” began to fill the air, as my heart filled up with dreams of taking a xylophone like this to play for people in the hospital or the nursing home. The tones were deep, but not terribly loud. Still, they reverberated in the air and in my chest, and I thought I could feel the healing already. This was a very special instrument.
A vivid picture began to form in my head: this xylophone would live in my room on a special table, isolated from foot traffic; and once a week, I would slip it into a special case to carefully transport it to my waiting audiences, who would instantly start to recover from whatever ailed them, and who would spontaneously break into praise for the God Who provides such beauty in music and wood-working.
Suddenly, my husband and children walked around the corner. Guiltily, I laid down the mallets as quietly as I could. It was time to check out.
But it was already too late for me. In the time it had taken for my family to move through the music store without me, I had fallen in love again.
I could not stop smiling as I paid the cashier for the flute recorder book and asked a few questions about the xylophones I had just seen.
In the car on the way home, even Pinky was not enough to distract my attention from the xylophone at the store. While I belted out a few more tunes on the recorder, my heart remained back at the store, longing for the large xylophone.
Sergei and the children knew that I would eventually recover from this latest musical infatuation, and they steeled themselves to listen, somewhat attentively, for the next several days to my endless raptures about this newest musical love of mine.
Time passed. I eventually moved on to other interests, including the instruments I already had waiting at home for me. But I have never forgotten that one perfect xylophone.
Which just goes to show that while a family may have the ability to leave a grown mother of four unattended in the music store, doing so is not always a good idea.
I wrote this story over the Christmas break, preparing it as part of a collection of stories in a manuscript that I submitted to a publisher. Alas, no lasting love connection was made, and for now, the book will have to continue to support itself, until a publisher comes along willing to make a permanent commitment. If y’all want to pray for that, this would not hurt my feelings at all.
Did you enjoy this? Tell me what you think.
Or how it might be improved.