i paint i write

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Mouth The Words

I am in second grade. Standing on the stage in a red velvet dress with white trim around the neckline.   The curtain is closed. My hair is clipped on each side with white reindeer, running with little silver bells.  I sing loud and strong.  Practicing for  parents and cousins and grandparents sitting on the other side of the curtain.

The teacher points her finger at me and says, “Pamela mouth the words.”

My body pulls away from my outer skin and turns inward. From the outside I look  solid , but I have become hollow like the chocolate Easter bunnies that cave in when you put too much pressure on them, exposing the inside of the shell. I mouth the words, and stop singing.

My red dress is packed in mothballs in my mothers basement. I now wear suits and leather ankle boots made in Italy.  My name is printed on my business cards in English and Japanese. I  trade in my bicycle for a scooter and a helmet.

Sunday mornings I ride my scooter to Tokyo Baptist church where I sit and listen to other people sing. Every week someone sings a solo for “special music.” There are two men who frequently sing a solo for this item on the bulletin. One of the men sings professionally and has made recordings. The other gentleman  would not want to sing for my second grade teacher but I am glad he sings…. He sings with such joy.  Everytime he sings I think of the bible verse,
“Make a joyful noise onto the Lord.”
Joyful – not in tune, not perfect, but joyful.

I often hear people commenting –  little whispers in the background. “Why does he sing?  He is out of tune. Couldn’t they find anyone else?”

Then the voices start in my head.

“Pamela I want you to sing for special music. I want you to sing “Jesus Loves Me” for special music.”

I couldn’t really have heard the small still voice of God telling me to sing? Didn’t God know what my teacher had said to me?  How can I sing for this critical audience? Every Sunday for weeks, I hear this little voice. It is like Jesus is sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear. “Pamela. Oh, Pamela. I am talking to you.  I want you to tell them about the joyful noise verse. Sing a joyful noise for me.”

I approach the music director and ask if I may sing  for special music. I tell her about my experience singing in second grade, and about the bible verse. She  encourages me to sing and accompanies me on the piano while I practice.

I wear a dark green suit, and green leather boots. I sing a simple melody within a two or three note range. I stumble on the first note, and have to start again. I sing  loud and strong  with joy.

“Jesus loves me this I know. For the bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.”

My wool suits hang limp in the closet. I wear blue jeans and Keen sandals. I drive a van and take my daughter to swim lessons.

I  sing the same words every night to my youngest daughter when I tuck her into bed. I pull the covers under her chin, and wait for her to say,

“Mama sing.”

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Oh Pamela! What a way to start my day after my wonderful night of sharing. This is so beautiful, the feelings so familar. I was never told to mouth the words when singing, but was made invisible or told to make myself invisible in other ways. I love-love-love the cylces in this slice, how you begin each section with the description of your wardrobe (and wouldn’t I love to see those green leather boots!), how you tell all the tiny, perfect details that bring each stage right to our hearts. This is skilled, fluid, powerful writing.

    I am so glad you listened to the voice, that you sang. Most importantly, I am glad you are still singing, that you are sharing your love and your love of music with your daughter, showing her a side of you that was hidden for so long and giving her, one note at a time, the confidence to be her true self, too.

  • Paul

    Another great piece — threading experiences together via parallel, such great descriptive language (the chocolate bunny simile was five-star) and sentence control. The meaning flows easily through your careful words. Love reading these every day! 🙂

    • Paul, thank you for your comments. I have really enjoyed being part of this community, and getting to know the other writers. Please say hello to Canada for me. I look for your little icon every day when I check for daily slices.

  • jen

    This gave me the goose bumps! I have a few parallel memories from my school days, and so as I read, I was almost bursting as I realized your story was going to end happily! I am so excited for you!! Keep spreading the joy, and show your own daughters how powerful the joy is!

  • Good for you – sing from your soul! You know who the most important audience is!

  • Beautiful post with incredible descriptions. I love the way you write. I was in tears at the end – and that is a good thing – means your writing is full of emotional pulls. Please don’t stop writing, my friend!

    • Oh Jessica. Thank you for your tears. I won’t stop writing now. Writing is better than ice cream or chocolate cake. (Which I am not allowed to eat)

  • Sweet words, “Mama sing.” Words wound for a lifetime, even though they were not meant to be cruel. Your description of becoming hollow like the Easter bunny was incredible.

    • Thank you elsie for your comments. I look forward to your post. Did you find anything interesting on the road today?