Author: Daniel, Bert

Mother's Gift

Sometimes it seems like everyone these days is part of their own live reality show on streaming video. When I was a kid, that sort of technology was just getting started. Personal photography was pretty established and some people I knew were even able to make their own home movies. When the cassette recorder came out, that was a real revolution. But even before that I remember when my dad let my brothers and me play around with his dictation tape machine. What a novel experience to hear your own voice played back to you in a flash, sounding the way that other people hear it.On this Mother's Day, I'm thinking of what a blessing it would be to have just a few more mementos of my mom, who passed away more than twenty years ago. If only I had a home movie of our family or a few more snapshots or a cassette recording (transferred to a digital for safe keeping, of course).

A few years ago my sister was able to track down a very old recording of my mother. It was recorded at a church in New York City, where my mother sang in the choir. She was then a student at the Juilliard School of Music and on Sundays she sang at the Riverside Church. By the late 1940's they were making recordings of most of their services and somehow my sister was able to locate an old recording of Mother singing a hymn called The Stranger of Galilee.

My sister made copies of the tape for all of the siblings. I played my copy on my cassette recorder, but the original was in such poor condition that the end result was unfortunately barely listenable. I don't know if the original was on audio tape or wax cylinder, but even with noise reduction filtering, the result wasn't that great.

I forgot about that tape until last year, when my sister gave a special present to my daughter for Christmas. As some of you who come to the CBA events know, my daughter Juliet really loves to sing. So her Aunt Mary Gee presented her with a gift of her grandma's music. Included was a book of arias signed by Mother and by one of her instructors, who had obviously given the book to her. Also included was a CD, re-recorded from the old tape made at Riverside Church. The difference this time was that it had been processed with more modern software and although still degraded, gave at least a hint of what my mother's voice had sounded like in her prime.

My daughter was thrilled and so was I. So this Mother's Day I am blessed to be able to hear my mother sing to me, as she did so many days while I was growing up. If only I had been recording her while she lilted away at those beautiful arias from La Traviata and Lucia di Lammermoor!

A couple of years after my mom passed away Natalie Cole made a record in which she sang a duet with her deceased dad, Nat King Cole. Unforgettable was a big hit (again). When I played Mama's CD for Juliet in the car the other day, she thought about how cool it would be to sing with her grandma and she tried a few lines while the CD was playing but was hampered by not knowing the words or having the music. (She doesn't know this yet, but I found a pdf file on the internet with words and music to the hymn, Stranger of Galilee. Maybe some day we can have a little concert.)

I wish you all a happy Mother's Day. And to all you mother's out there, I urge you to make use of the best technology available to leave a good record of what makes you special to all of those who love you. In other words, be on the cloud before you go to the clouds.

But don't worry. What mothers do every day for their kids lasts forever in their hearts and souls. That's what's really important. Having a visual or auditory reminder for some of these memories is just an added bonus.

Posted:  5/12/2013

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