The Index Card
There is a small index card that I keep in my purse, buried underneath layers of mom paraphernalia such as pull-ups, granola bars, and random toys. I’ve memorized the words on it, so I don’t need to look at it, but knowing it’s in my purse reminds me of that special afternoon.
My husband Andrew, gifted from a young age with a caramel smooth voice and a talent for guitar, started working full-time a year ago as a musician performing at places like adult daycare centers, rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes. For months, as he practiced, the rich sounds of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and others have echoed throughout our home. Our three children enjoyed the music and have even learned a couple of the songs.
“Is Daddy going to his shows again?” our three-year old son asks me while watching Andrew prepare his outfit and guitars.
“Yes, he’s going to play music for people to make them feel better,” I answer proudly. Our son smiles and waves good-bye as my husband leaves for the day.
Our older two, energetic boy and girl twins, always ask if they can accompany Andrew to one of his shows. We did that a couple of times when they were younger, but during this summer an opportunity arose where my husband only had one show in the afternoon and we were all able to go with him. I packed a bag full of small musical instruments, such as shakers and rhythm instruments, hoping the kids might be inspired to play along with their father.
The show was for an adult day care group located in a church. When we stepped in, laden with musical instruments and three curious children, we were met by a large group of elderly adults and a few staff members. The rooms they occupied were cozy, and a very welcoming brightly-colored paper sunflower had been taped to the wall.
A circle of chairs waited for us and we sat down, the kids pointing to things and chatting away, completely unaware of the effect they were having on the elderly adults. I looked over at the people starting to sit down and noticed kind smiles and eager eyes. I wondered how many of them, a few who looked to be in their eighties or higher, had contact with young children. Were they grandparents or great-grandparents? Did they spend time with young children, playing and laughing? I’m sure they were happy to see my husband perform again, but perhaps they were more interested in the three little helpers we’d brought along.
Before Andrew began, our four-and-a-half-year-old twins sat next to their little brother, heads bowed, unmoving. I rattled the musical instruments, hoping to attract their gazes, but it seemed that the kids had finally noticed that they were receiving extra attention. My three little ones, underneath the well-meaning and excited scrutiny of so many eyes, had shrunk into themselves like turtles going into their shells.
The staff members asked the kids their names and ages and received a few mumbled responses in return. I hid a smile and kept the bag of instruments near me, ready for when the kids wanted to participate.
I couldn’t blame them for being shy; even I was a little timid around such a large group of people with their eyes fixed on us. My fingers reached up to my hair and my earrings, hoping everything was in the right place. When I did look around at the group before us, I noticed that there were a few more men than women and one or two were in wheelchairs. The smiles on their faces were so welcoming that I felt my own mouth relax into a smile. Glancing over at my shy children, I hoped they would soon feel comfortable enough to be able to have fun and bring joy to this elderly group.
Since the kids were quiet, Andrew decided to begin his set by himself. He took out his acoustic guitar and set it on his knee, his callused fingers ready to fly across the fret board. I have seen him practice at home so many times that actually watching him in his “performance mode” was quite a treat.
Once he began playing, the room was hushed and his voice spread over us all like a calming balm. One could feel the memories rise like a wave from the group. A few timorous voices joined Andrew’s, and that truly brought the group closer together. At one point, I even found myself singing along to “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” by the Everly Brothers, with quite a few others.
There was a sense of connection amongst all of us in that room, brought together by music and memories. These adults were still people, complete with feelings, memories, and hopes, even if they were elderly and needed care. The staff was spry and chatty, trying to make sure everyone was comfortable.
During a few of the slower songs, the staff members stood up and invited some of the men to dance. Bodies swayed to “Unchained Melody” and “Rhythm of the Rain.” Everyone smiled to see the dancing; the years melted away, and we were all just people enjoying the power of music.
Around the middle of Andrew’s performance, I took one of the kids to use the bathroom, and when I came back, the gentleman sitting next to me handed me a small index card. With a squirmy toddler on my lap, I read the card and tears welled up. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to such a sweet gesture. The card read: It is so much fun that you came along with your kids. Thank you, Ed.
“Thank you so much. We are happy to be here,” I whispered, looking into his eyes. He smiled kindly and wiggled his fingers at the kids.
I had never thought that bringing the kids would elicit such a response. Touched, I held on to that index card throughout the rest of Andrew’s show, as an anchor to remind me of the things that should never be forgotten: community, kindness, music, and people.
Perhaps the kids felt my surge of emotions, because soon after I received the card, they perked up. Rummaging through the instruments, they each chose one and joined in with their father. I shared a grin with a few people; the kids were so proud of themselves, grooving to the music and shaking their instruments. I was grateful that no one had rushed them into participating.
We ended the show on a joyful note. The hour had been full of dancing, music, and laughter. Even though we had brought the music and the children, I felt that we were the ones who had received a gift. For the short time we were together, everyone’s lives had brushed up against each other like cattails undulating in a cheerful breeze.
In the car, I showed my husband the card, and my tears almost spilled over again. We smiled at each other while the kids chirped in the back of the car like happy sparrows. There is true happiness in sharing things with others, especially if it brightens up their day.
Ophelia Leong has been published in Mamalode, Literary Mama, Mothers Always Write, Allegro Poetry, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Saturday Night Reader, Eunoia Review, Beyond Science Fiction, and others. She loves to write and Irish Dance in her free time. Check out her blog here: Ophelialeong.blogspot.com and find her on Twitter at @OpheliaLeong.