It was around the second half of the first verse of “One Day at a Time…Sweet Jesus,” a solo sung with gusto by a woman at my parent’s small rural church, when I heard the first chirps of a renegade songbird joining in.
I knew that voice immediately. And I knew exactly where it was coming from.
Second row, centre seat of the small choir perched on the other side of the church. My mother, a soprano of remarkable enthusiasm, didn’t join in on entire lines, because she didn’t remember all the words. She chimed in on “….teach me to take, one day at a time.” Then, seconds later, “..show me the way, one day at a time.” Patsy Cline, belting it out to the left of the baptismal font seemed unaware of my mother’s contributions. But she did seem like a pro, who had probably sung this song in 100 bars before this joint. She had probably dealt with usurpers before.
After all, it is hard not to join in. And each time my mother did, she moved her head slightly to the side so she was no longer obscured by the little old ladies in floral dresses sitting in front of her. So she could see me. And so I could see her. She was singing those fragments to me directly. Or so it seemed. She likes it when I am home and attend church with them. She had already announced to the congregation, from the choir pew, that I was there.
I looked away. I rattled my bulletin. I glanced at my father to see if he had noticed. He sat stiffly, eyes glued to the main performance. She fired on all cylinders as she entered the final lap, finish line in sight “….Well Jesus you know if you’re looking below. It’s worse now, than then. Cheating and stealing, violence and crime…”
I glanced back to my mother. Looked away again quickly. I wanted to both shush my mother and applaud her for refusing to let one singer hog this great old song. And then I just felt grateful that these things still go on, that country singers still pop up in country churches built entirely of white wood. That passionate sopranos sometimes just can’t sit quietly. That the small congregation broke into applause. That the singer leaned into her mic and said “Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you,” when she was done, and that soon, very soon, we’d all get to eat sugar cookies left over from the funeral on Wednesday. But over all, grateful for my mom.