Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Mama Story--The Night Artur Rubenstein came to Town

Most everyone has a Mama story. One of my favorites must have happened when I was in the seventh or eighth grade.My mother never had many advantages in many ways. Married at sixteen, worked in a cotton mill until her retirement. Her world was small. Family, mill, church were the parameters of her life.

But she was determined her boys would have more chances than she had. Early she introduced my brother and me to books and encouraged us to read. Our little four-room mill house was filled with  books. Discovering I had an interest in music she pieced together enough money to buy a good used piano. I never thought about the sacrifices that purchase must have cost until years later. That purchase was followed by weekly piano lessons and encouragementg to practice, practice, practice.

One day the piano teacher told my mother she thought it would be a good thing for me to go a concert and to hear a great pianist play. My mother knew no classical music and knew no names of concert pianists. So she bought the tickets and waited for the night to come.

Days later, one afternoon after work she told me that was the day. After supper she put on her Sunday clothes, made sure I was presentable and we walked to the corner and waited for the bus. We rode three miles downtown and then transferred to another bus that would take us to the High School five miles away where the concert would be held.

We got off the bus and entered a crowded room.  An usher pointed upstairs to where our seats would be. We found our places in the balcony and sat down. I looked around at a sea of faces. On the stage there was a  beautiful grand piano. The lights dimmed. A small distinguished man dressed in a tuxedo came from behind the curtain and the audience began to applaud. My mother whispered, "That's Artur Rubenstein. They say he's one of the greatest pianists there is." The room was quiet and the great man began to play.

When the concert ended we walked out the door and waited for the bus. Finally the bus came and we rode to town, got on a second bus to take us home. We must have gotten home about eleven o'clock which was late for someone who had to be at work at Seven AM.

That night was the opening of a door. Maybe my mother knew there would be a great many events that would follow that special night. There would be high school and college and trips that would take me north and west and friends from all over. There would be books to read and other nights sitting in other balconies waiting for the music to begin. There would be a bride in Kentucky and two children my mother dearly loved. There would be churches and vacations and a world so much larger than she or I had never envisioned. She never complained about the sacrifices she had made or the constrictions of her hard life. What she did do was what all good mothers do--she opened a door.

After the sudden death of his little daughter, Mark Twain wrote that grief is like the burning down of one's house. It will take yeas and years to reckon with the loss. I still reckon with the loss of my mother. But I have also learned another lesson. It has taken me years and years to look back down that long road and reckon with the blessings my Mother brought my way.

(Ordinarily I do not reprint blog articles. This article appeared two years ago as a blog piece. Because it is a tribute to a very great lady--I share it with you again.)

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