Friday, April 1, 2011

My Parents' Hands

When I think of my mother Jean's strong fingers, she's typing 75 wpm on a Royal manual in a newsroom or the stylish Olivetti in the blue case that she carried to Jerusalem on a reporting trip after the Six-Day War. I think of my father Harvey's slim hands massacring Beethoven piano sonatas or squaring off his cigarette lighter on top of a pack of Chesterfields next to his martini on the coffee table.

I've been thinking today about hands and handing over. Fifty years ago -- yes, on an April Fool's Saturday; it probably explains a lot -- they hand-wrote inscriptions in the King James Bible they presented on the occasion of my baptism by the Rev. Canon Howard McClintock at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit.

I was six, which is old for an infant baptism. My genial but abstracted father, also a journalist, moved out when I was two, and even before then, as I understand it, it was never dull, because of the music and martinis. My mother worked long hours as a pioneering general assignment reporter for the Detroit Free Press to support us and finally pay my father's attorney to divorce her, since otherwise that might never have happened, either. I was lucky to have received the sacrament as early as I did.

Harvey died in 1975. My mother doesn't type as much as she used to, though she can still write an eloquent and whimsical e-mail. I type like crazy, when my fingers aren't itching to play the guitar. On my father's beloved piano, I only got as far as massacring Mozart sonatas. After decades of air guitar I bought my first dreadnought on my 40th birthday and have learned to play well enough to accompany myself singing folks songs. I play with church friends and for St. John's School students during chapel. Last weekend in the mountains, friends sat politely as I struggled through two Tom Russell songs and one by John Prine. When I'm playing guitar a lot, I'm blogging less, and then the other way around. Kathy definitely prefers the blogging, but I love them both, because I was anointed by my parents' hands and blessed by the things they loved.

1 comment:

MK said...

Lovely post! Your Mom sounds like a very admirable person on so many levels. Hmmm, I can see where you got some of your qualities!