It’s curious how life circles around.
The chemotherapy treatment my mother has been receiving since her midsummer surgery has ravaged this once vibrant woman. Physically she’s as frail as a cricket’s wing. Mentally she’s as scrambled and unpredictable as a toddler. Whether that’s the effects of the chemo, her stroke from years ago, the cancer, dementia, or a combination of them all, no one knows. It little matters.
As a young girl my mother used to let me sit beside her on the piano bench as she played music from My Picture book of Songs with its charming drawings and seasonal themes. We sang of big black choo choo trains, puppies next door, aeroplanes flying, whirly, twirly leaves and dozens of other sweet topics. That song book still exists sans the yellow cover, having miraculously survived a housefire and six other children loving its pages with pencil and crayon. The cellophane tape mom had carefully applied now scars the ragged-edged pages.
I wrote of my love for and experience with this book and its effect on my life, my children’s lives and my grandchildren’s lives several years ago. What I’d never conceived of happening with this book occurred a couple weeks ago as I sat on the front porch with my mother.
The thermometer barely tapped the seventy degree mark, and a light breeze wandered across the porch. That slight wind carried the sound of a train whistle. That was unusual. Sure, there are tracks that run alongside the state highway half a mile away, but I’d never seen a train in all the times I’d visited, let alone heard one. I remarked on that. Then I said, “That reminds me of the train song we used to sing all the time when I was little.”
Mom didn’t remember the train song.
And so, I sang it to her.
“Choo choo choo, what’s coming down the track?
Choo choo choo, it’s something big and black.
See it steaming as it chugs along.
Hear it ringing as it says ding dong.
Choo choo choo there it goes again.
Choo choo choo choo choo choo choo,
It’s a big black train.
It’s a big black train.”
She hummed along and sang a word or maybe two.
Within those brief words and notes, mother and daughter switched roles.
We enjoyed a few more minutes on the porch swing in silence, taking in the view of the mountains, and an occasional hawk circling. Lulu the Wonder Cat wandered among our legs, thought about jumping onto Mom’s lap, thought better of it.
Inside, Mom surprisingly knew right where to find that old songbook. She sat at her puzzle table while I sat at the piano to play those old songs for her. She hummed along to some of them. I couldn’t sing, as all my effort went toward holding back tears so I could read the notes.
Full circle sure isn’t what I thought it would be.