Ordinary People

Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I first heard it in 1980, after it was mentioned in my freshman English class by the name by which I will always know it, “the theme from Ordinary People”. Ordinary People is still one of my favorite films. The story of a family who must come to terms with the trauma of a child dying, and begin to heal so that they can save each other from despair. I did not know, in 1980, that this situation would become ordinary for me, too.

On this Saturday before Thanksgiving, there is a lovely rain hitting my windows. I became lost tonight in that music of rain as well as some classical pieces, including Canon in D. In a surprising turn of events, I have resumed a hobby of playing the flute, after putting it down in ninth grade. I forsook band to take an art class (I would say that was an auspicious choice).

This all came about because my son had decided to learn the clarinet for his school band. Next thing I knew, I had ordered a flute from Amazon and begun searching up songs every day. I sit with my laptop in front of me and plug away, mostly at the first pages of things, which are free. Today I found Stairway to Heaven. Rock music melodies, without the vocal expression, amplifiers and fashion, are not as exciting as Bach or Mozart for a novice flutist. The notes miraculously reached my eyes and brain when I started again, and my fingers jumped into position as if 37 years had not flown by. I refer to a chart sometimes, but I have unmistakably kept some skills for all these years, beneath the surface.

This fall, with the short sunlight and long sadnesses, has been taking a toll on me. There seem to be few answers to my “why” questions. Why do people shoot up churches and elementary schools, and commit cruel and disgusting acts against others? Why has mankind chosen greed and nearly killed the planet? Why does my life feel like pointless drudgery, living to pay bills and crank out meaningless chores? Why do I have to do this, navigate this world with this horrendous, excruciating pain left inside of me in place of my precious daughter?

I need this opportunity to escape and peck away at the tiny notes. I need to be a part of something old and big and beautiful, accessible by a code developed long ago. Above all, I need to say things which words cannot. I need to breath my tears and turn them into songs. I did not plan the twists and turns leading me in this strange and complicated life, but here I am. I must do something, so why not do something that can make me feel good, and maybe someone else too? “I knew, if I had my chance, that I could make these people dance, and maybe, they’d be happy, for a while……”

Susanna was here, such an example of life well-lived. When she was a toddler, she would wake up early, singing, unable to sleep because she needed to sing so much. If you are lucky enough to have a child in your life, you have the world in front of you. You have the magic of cathedrals and mountains and oceans and cities, beautiful cities lit up like New York when you are on the subway rising beside the Brooklyn Bridge after dark. You yourself used to be a child, and you are the same magic as the sound of rain, and the glistening spectrum of each drop on a smooth surface. It does not matter what is happening or how you feel, still you live.

I don’t know why, why the terrible things. But I know why I must survive. Because life. Because the world. Nothing helps, nothing erases this loss I am faced with always, but living is worth it because it is still a beautiful world even on the worst days, the ones where all seems flat or even horrendous.  And there is so much more to come.

By trishfreer

Mother, writer, artist and teacher grappling with grief and loss.

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