I sang another year for the homecoming of my home church, Saint Paul’s Lutheran. Saint Paul’s is celebrating its 189th birthday, almost three times my age. A generation being 20 years, Saint Paul’s has ministered to over 9 generations (their year-to-year numbers on the tombstones of Saint Paul’s cemetery).
Before hip replacement, I knew “bone-deep” pain. But there’s “bone-deep happiness” in seeing old friends. (Newer friends haven’t sunk down to bone depth yet, but are “settling in” as the years pass).
I reflected with old friend Tim Deal (also, East Rowan Class of ’69 classmate) about not believing a year has passed since his father-in-law, the late Pastor Floyd W. Bost entered the Church Triumphant. It’s said Heaven has no hierarchy, but I think Pastor Bost’s fellow souls there will always look up to him.
A homecoming miracle (of sorts) occurred. It has to do with me sometimes telling people that with age, I’m becoming a “p.m. tenor,” because it’s easier to sing higher in the evening, as the voice is more warmed up just by experiencing the day’s routine.
Saint Paul’s Minister of Music, Mr. Steve Stringer and I decided my homecoming solo would be “Simple Song” (not that simple) from Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.” Since F sharp was the highest note I would have to sing, and since Mr. Stringer’s instrument could automatically transpose the piece downwards, I asked him to set it to where my highest note would be E flat. He did, and we rehearsed several times, getting the nuances worked out at Mr. Stringer’s direction (the director knows better than the singer).
Following my solo during the service, Mr. Stringer gave me an astonished, happy look, loudly whispering, “I forgot to lower it!” And he said it sounded great! It’s the power of mind over matter; because, thinking the high notes were lower, I sang them with no problem (it also says singers have certain neuroses).
The choir sang their always excellent “city sound” rather than “rural.”
At the homecoming dinner, a sweet lady said my singing voice was operatic; and added that whenever my Salisbury Post column concerns Saint Paul’s, she cuts it out and pins it to the Church bulletin board. I thanked her very much for her kind words, even to the point (I think) of my saying, “Thank you for clipping me out and pinning me to the wall!”
Then, a sweet girl of about 10 or 11 asked me, “Did you live next to a granite house on the Old Concord Road?” I said “Yes,” thinking to myself that most kids nowadays probably don’t even know what granite is, much less any other metamorphic, sedimentary, or igneous rock.
The girl’s family lives in the same granite home occupied by the Ritchies (Paul, Mary Ruth, Steve, and Paula) when I was growing up. She is friends with my friends, Charlie and Pam, who have long lived in my old “birth-1974” home. As a child, I made a path through the woods to the Ritchie’s house to play with Steve. Although the front area between the houses has been cleared, I do hope the little girl walks through those woods, as I did, preserving that path, or making another if the original is long gone. I told her of shadowy forest wonders I encountered in that area as a boy: toadstools, toads (but never “stool sitting”), box turtles, beetles and grubs in the organic forest litter, randomly-dropped bird feathers, eggshells, and bird bones at rest. Her eyes seemed to answer, “I know; I have seen them too!”
Before leaving, I visited the graves of my parents, Bernard and Lorraine Williams. Their plots in relation to each other have not changed; but perhaps, through some fault of memory, I remembered them farther apart.
They seemed closer, as if having “scooted together” to leave more unclaimed room to one side; but, in a paraphrase, “I have many songs to sing before I sleep.”