Swing Music

Memory Music: Part IV
Continuing in a series of posts about the way music unlocks memory ... today, I'm strolling way back into childhood.

Swing Music

Andee Harty lived down the alley. She had long brown hair, an easy smile, and a golden retriever named Nugget. Andee’s real name is Andrea. We walked 6+ blocks to Roosevelt Elementary school together, day after day, year after year. Sometimes, she had to carry her cello and we walked a little slower. We were in orchestra together, went to camp together, and drew a series of bubble people named “Herschel” in junior high English together. Her Dad had an ongoing boat project docked in their back yard, which made him seem a little like Noah. I spent much time in that back yard, on the tire swing.

Jesus and the Tire Swing.

The tree tire swing was our Starbucks. We’d meet there, and spend countless words and chatter while swinging. Two freaky fridays happened on the swing. I’m guessing we were about 9 or 10 years old. It was Good Friday both times. Public schools were closed the Friday before Easter. It was a three day holiday. "Good Friday" is the day which is historically understood to be when Jesus was executed and I had just learned in Sunday School, that his approximate time of death was around 3 pm.

So, it was 3-ish, when Andee and I were spending our day-off by the tire swing. I was telling her about the Jesus death-time, and feeling quite sad about it. As we were talking, the sky started to get cloudy and dark. A huge midwest thunderstorm rolled in and lightning cracked through our conversation. It was a black storm and Jesus death all at once. We both ran for cover.

A Yearly Miracle.

That very same series of events, happened pretty much exactly the same way, on Good Friday the following year. That day, I decided that I must have somehow missed this annual phenomenon. I believed that perhaps every single year, lightning cracked at precisely 3pm on Good Friday. Perhaps, every year at the moment when Jesus had said “It is Finished” a big storm opened up and rained down on the world. Which, made me seriously question why everyone in entire the world wouldn’t believe what Jesus taught. This was apparently a yearly miracle that no one was talking about. I was perplexed and amazed.


Obviously, the next Good Friday brought disappointing news. No 3 o’clock storm. It wasn’t a yearly miracle. But the tire kept swinging.

Last weekend, grown-up Andee and I stood reminiscing at our high school reunion. Andee asked me about a song we used to sing. We learned it in music class, in 2nd or 3rd grade, I think. 35 years later, all she had to do was sing the first line and it started playing in my head. It was an old english song, meant to be sung in a round. And we used to sing it around and around and around.

“White coral bells upon a slender stalk

Lily of the valley deck my garden walk

Oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?

That would only happen when the fairies sing.”

Yes, it’s a silly childhood song. But, as soon as she mentioned it, I could see the lines in the concrete sidewalks as we walked to school.

And I could hear our small voices singing.

In that quirky moment of reunion,

I was standing in one place as an adult, but in my mind,

I was on the tire again,

with the pendulum swaying

back and forth

in time,



years ...

A tree metronome

swinging the beats between

then and now


what we once believed


what we now know


who we once were


who we are now becoming.


Click here to listen to White Coral Bells.


"Life is a Tire Swing" by Pamela Murphy, www.pamelamurphystudio.com

"Lily of the Valley" photo by Erin www.flicker.com


Steve Leigh said...

Beautiful Kelley.