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,