Songs of Childhood

I grew up with George Gershwin. As youngsters, my sisters and I danced to his moody music all jazzed up in Rhapsody in Blue. Unawares, the clarinet’s opening trill settled into my soul.
A barber, my father laughed at Mozart and Beethoven’s “long hair” music. He never let on that Gershwin’s brilliant Rhapsody piano concerto was classical. Dad’s vast and vivacious Big Band record collection offered my sisters and me vicarious entertainment and education.
Mom, justifiably, didn’t approve when Dad purchased another album instead of providing shoes for our growing feet. Unlike her mother, Mom wasn’t musically inclined. She avoided Granny’s piano and felt too shy to break into song while cooking and washing dishes.
Yet, thanks to Mom, at age nine I held my first hymnal in church and learned Fanny Crosby’s words to Phoebe Knapp’s melody of Blessed Assurance. And praise Wolcott Elementary School for my vocal music teacher who taught my class The Happy Wanderer by Florenz Sigismund.
About then, Dad drove to Detroit and brought home a beautiful violin. I still wonder why he lifted the instrument from its case and looked me in the eye with high hopes.
Perhaps it was that brief, melancholy violin solo in Rhapsody that charmed my father to risk money on my talent and devotion. I was learning to read sheet music in band class when some boys teased, “Look! Bet she’s got a machine gun in there!”
Remember Eliot Ness and The Untouchables? The series lasted long enough to ruin Dad’s dreams for his second daughter, the would-be violinist.
Years after that disappointment, one muggy summer night in our teens, my older sister Linda and I watched the 1945 black and white film portraying Gershwin’s short life. Titled Rhapsody in Blue, an orchestra performed the entire work, the defining and shining moment in Gershwin’s career when he improvised his iconic piano score.
In hindsight, the movie inspired my musical coming of age. In the midst of my infatuation with Motown, the Beatles, and Beach Boys, came my first night at the symphony in my own home. And I recognized the music, amazed at the number of musicians who played various parts and seamed the whole together flawlessly. 
Now in my senior years, I’ve enjoyed several Rhapsody in Blue performances in Detroit’s Orchestra Hall and elsewhere. Gershwin’s living genius never fails to sing the songs of my childhood. The finale’s giant steps march into the unknown with confidence.
Dear Reader, I’m growing old with George Gershwin. I’ve forgiven myself for letting go my father’s violin, for not embracing the gift he gave. After shaking with stage fright when performing my dulcimer for family and friends, I see wisdom in my writing life.   
Whenever I set the needle on Dad’s scratched Rhapsody vinyl and hear the clarinet sing, I know without a doubt my marching orders.
The written word is my instrument to practice and play. Blessed assurance! This is my story. This is my song. 
Val-deri, Val-dera,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky.