“Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder was the first song that came to mind that Saturday afternoon.
I categorize places by food. (Columbus, Mississippi: Little Dooey’s Barbecue. Minot, North Dakota: Planet Pizza.)
But I tag memories with music.
I remember my mother singing “Toora, Loora, Loora” over me when I was four or five, trying to get me to sleep.
Ever the strong-willed child I’d put my finger over her lips and say, “No more ‘Toora Loora’!”
When I hear “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night I find myself in a darkened bus with my fellow middle schoolers, rolling down the highway on a class trip, singing as loud as we can.
Jeremiah was a bullfrog. He was a good friend of mine…”
“Mountain of Love” by Charley Pride returns me to a car traveling across Texas, heading to Mr. Pettit’s first Air Force assignment.
We had never listened to country music, but only the sounds of Nashville could be found on the radio dial as we crossed from the tree-lined highways of the Ark-La-Tex to the high desert of Lubbock.
The songs of Fred Rogers filled our home in our sons’ early years.
“You Are Special” and “It’s Such a Good Feeling” summed up the love and hope and dreams we carried for our little boys.
“Something That We Do” by Clint Black has been on my internal playlist for around three years now, ever since the marriage of Younger Son.
The lyrics of that song describe marriage at its most authentic and lasting, not the gauzy easy romance promised in the movies.
There's no request too big or small
We give ourselves, we give our all
Love isn't someplace that we fall
It's something that we do.
As of June 14, 2014, Stevie Wonder’s song about his baby girl is no longer confined to my freshman year at Columbia College.
It has moved well into the 21
century and marks the moment when we saw our granddaughter for the first time.
We stood at the nursery window like children at a toy store, straining for a view of Little Miss as a nurse tended to her.
Our princess was crying, her arms outstretched and quivering, overwhelmed by the size and brightness of her new world.
The nurse soothed her by wrapping her as tightly as a mummy in a blanket and then brought her to the window, where we saw this newest member of our family face to sweet face for the first time.
That’s when I heard Stevie singing in my head:
Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful?
Isn't she precious?
Less than one minute old
I never thought through love
We'd be making one as lovely as she
But isn't she lovely made from love?
Too soon it was time to go home.
As we traveled north through the Shenandoah Valley we listened to a satellite radio show devoted to cowboy music.
(Mr. Pettit and I have eclectic musical tastes.)
“Red River Valley” came on and I started singing along.
From this valley they say you are going.
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile,
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway a while.
The words take me to the back seat of my parents’ car, heading home from a visit to both grandmothers in North Carolina.
Daddy is singing as he drives.
He often does, and his repertoire includes “Red River Valley,” “Cattle Call,” “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley” and a hundred original creations.
The dark woods on either side of the road don’t seem so threatening here in the dim glow of the dashboard light, listening to Daddy sing.
Daddy’s been gone for 25 years, Mama for 17.
I remember them these days with more laughter than tears, but as I sang along to “Red River Valley” the tears came.
The intensity of longing for my parents surprised me.
I wanted them to meet their great-granddaughter.
I wanted to share the beauty of this day.
I wanted to tell them that all is well.
My sadness passed when I realized I was encircled by blessing.
Parents, husband, children and now a grandchild:
A circle of love extending into heaven and back again.
As I write this I recall a song I heard for the first time in a Bible Study Fellowship class in Montgomery, Alabama:
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!“
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
“Toora, Loora, Loora”: James Royce Shannon
“Joy to the World”: Hoyt Axton
“Mountain of Love”: Harold Dorman
“You Are Special” and “It’s Such a Good Feeling”: Fred Rogers
“Something That We Do": Clint Black and Skip Ewing
“Isn’t She Lovely”: Stevie Wonder
“Red River Valley”: Folk Song
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”: Thomas Obediah Chisholm and William Marion Runyan