Eve

“It is good to praise the LORD and make music to Your name, O Most High. . . . The righteous will. . . still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.” Ps. 92: 1,12, 13-15

Lindy Mitchell took a break from her work.  She reached for her canned drink and took a sip, letting the cold liquid slide down her throat.

Cross-legged in the middle of Beal Street Church’s music library, she eyed stacks and stacks of wrinkled sheet music. Stacks on the shelves.  Stacks on the floor.  And none of it labeled or categorized!  How the church had managed this long without organizing its music library was beyond her.  Must be thirty-years’ worth of stuff here, as old as the church itself.  Her one-day project was turning out to be a bigger job than she could have ever imagined.  Mace owed her for this, big-time.

She smiled and imagined some creative ways in which her husband could repay her, later.  Starting with dinner tonight.

The smell of new pine shelving, gratis from Mace’s friend Charlie Cannon, emanated from the wall opposite her.  She’d spent most of the morning in the floor folding sturdy boxes in which the music would be stored.  She’d readied her labels and Sharpie markers.  Now came the decision of what to keep and what to toss.

Mace’s instruction was to purge everything with no value and to set questionable items aside for him to decide later.  She knew from her own experience what music the choir enjoyed and what Mace usually liked.  Shouldn’t be too hard to figure this out.

The stack next to her had a yellow and white cover, the title “Until Then” scrolled across.

She opened it up.  Never heard of it.  When was it written?  Her eyes jumped to the bottom of the page.  The arrangement came from nineteen-eighty, four years before she was born.  And judging from the layer of dust on top, it hadn’t been used since.  Just like the rest of these golden oldies.

The piece fluttered from her fingers into the trash and then its corresponding pile. One down.  She scanned the room.  A hundred more to go.

“Lindy?”

Julia Peter, Brother Bill Peter’s wife, entered, dressed in a charcoal-colored  suit with an artsy scarf arranged about her neck.  A petite woman with snow white hair and intense black eyes followed her in.  Lindy didn’t recall the woman’s name but thought she recognized her as a church member.

Lindy jumped up.  She grabbed the edges of her shorts,  gave them a good tug downward.  She smoothed the wrinkles in her faded t-shirt.

“Lindy, Gladys said you were here.  She promised she’d have our flyers finished this afternoon.”  Julia’s eyes crinkled in a smile and surveyed the scene.  “My goodness.  I haven’t been in here in a while.  You’ve certainly got your work cut out for you.”

The other woman, dressed in a pink sweater and choker of pearls, pulled her pocketbook close.  “Hhmmmpph.  Looks like someone left this place in a humdinger of a mess, if you ask me.”

Julia patted her arm.  “Eve, you know we’ve only had lay people and part-time seminary music students to do the music before Mace came.  In their defense, they did the best they could.  They never really had the time to get in here and straighten it out.”

“Doesn’t look that way to me.  Sure looks like they could’ve done something about it.”

Julia gestured toward Lindy.  “I don’t know if you’ve met Lindy yet.  Eve, this is Lindy Mitchell, Mason Mitchell’s wife.  And Lindy, this is Eve Symonds, one of my dearest friends here at Beal Street.  Eve attends the early service.  She’s been a member here since Bill and I first came to the church.”

Lindy took her cold, thin hand in her own.  “Nice to meet you, Ms. . .Mrs. . . .” Lindy looked to Julia.

“It’s Mrs. Symonds,” the woman said.  “I’ve been married three times and outlived all three of my husbands.  The last, my Edward, died nine years ago, God rest his soul.  But please don’t call me Mrs. Symonds, dear.  Just call me Eve.   ‘Mrs. Symonds’ makes me feel old.”

“All right, Eve.”

Julia’s phone buzzed in her purse.  “Hello?” she answered.  A wrinkle crossed her forehead.  “Okay, Gladys, I’ll be right there.  Thanks.”  She hung up.  “Eve, If you’ll stay here with Lindy, I’ve got to dash back to the church office and proof the Bible study flyer one more time before Gladys prints them.  Excuse me, ladies.”

Silence followed.  Lindy cleared her throat.  “Mrs. Symonds–Eve–would you like to sit down?  I’d be glad to get you a chair.”  She moved toward the choir room.

“Don’t bother.  Julia said she wouldn’t be long.  We were on our way to the Tea Room when we stopped in.”  The black eyes darted to the stacks of music.  She picked up the nearest one and held it close.  “What have you got here?  Oh, my, ‘Ivory Towers’—I’ve always liked that tune.”

She motioned to the other piles.  “What’re you going to do with all these?”

“Some of it we’ll keep, if it’s worth keeping.”

Eve walked to the garbage can and peered inside.  “And what do we have in here?”  The woman pulled a copy of the trashed “Until Then” from the bin. The bird-like eyes turned to Lindy.  “This is a great song.  Don’t you know how it goes?”

“No, ma’am, I don’t.”

“Used to be one of my favorites; it’s been ages since we’ve sung it in church.   Maybe your husband ought to bring it out, dust it off.”  She held it out to Lindy.

Lindy took it and shifted in her flipflops.  “Maybe, but I’m not sure we need to hang onto it anymore. Mace has ordered lots of new music for the church.”

“You play the piano, don’t you?”  She took Lindy’s arm.  “Here, you play it, and I’ll show you what some really good music sounds like.”

Lindy bit her tongue.  As opposed to what, the music they had now?

And why did people always wrongly presume–just because she was married to Mace–that she could play anything on the piano she wanted to?

They were at the wooden piano bench.  “Mrs. Symonds, I mean Eve, I really don’t play the piano.”

“I bet you took piano lessons as a child, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did, but I am not proficient enough to play. . . this.  I can barely pick out the melody line.”

“Good enough.  All we need is the melody, anyway.”  Eve firmly sat down.  Resigned, Lindy took a seat on her other side.  The woman pulled out a pair of reading glasses and perched them on her nose.  “Well, go ahead.  Let’s hear it.”

She’s actually going to make me go through with this. Lindy sent a prayer heavenward. Lord, help!

Lindy located the key signature at the top. A small blessing. The song was written in the key of F, which meant there was only one flatted note, B flat, for her to keep up with.

Lindy picked her way through the introduction with both hands, managing to play most of the notes in the treble cleft.  She started hesitantly into the verse before the older woman brought them to a screeching halt.

“Wait, wait!”  She waved her hands.  “You’re not singing the words.”

Lindy removed her hands from the keys.  “With all due respect, Eve, and I do mean that, I can’t play and sight-sing at the same time.  Playing it is hard enough.  If you want it sung, you’re going to have to do it.”

Eve Symonds slapped her thigh sharply.  “Then let’s get to it.  Julia’ll be back soon.”  She shooed Lindy.  “Go on, now. Start over.”

Lindy made it through the halting introduction again.  Eve dove in at the right time, warbling through two verses and a chorus.  The music built to its peak, as Eve’s voice gathered intensity and began the final big chorus:

But until then my heart will go on singing

Until then with joy I’ll carry on

Until the day my eyes behold my Savior

Until the day God calls me home, God calls me home.***

They heard clapping behind them.  “How lovely!” said Julia.  ” I haven’t heard that song in ages.”

Eve straightened.  “What did I tell you?  Just because a song has some age on it doesn’t mean it can’t be used by God any more.”  She poked Lindy in the ribs.  “Us older folks just happen to like this stuff, you know.”

“Come on, Eve, the Tea Room awaits.”  Julia held out her hand. “Lindy, we’ll leave you to your work.

Eve rose.  “Goodbye, Lindy.  And remember what I said.”

“I will.  Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too.”  Eve winked at her before walking out.

Lindy strode to the garbage can.  Eve’s words rung in her head: Just because it’s got some age on it doesn’t mean it can’t be used by God anymore.  She pulled the music out she’d tossed in.  She shuffled the pages into a neat pile and situated it in a box with its title, “Until Then,”  penned on the label. 

She went to the next few stacks in the floor, removed a copy from each, and sat back down in front of the piano.

***”Until Then,” lyrics by Stuart Hamblen, 1958.

The Hummies are Back

http://bob-ayers.smugmug.com

Because I was inspired by a Facebook friend’s passion for all things bird and hummingbird, I decided last week to dig out my old hummingbird feeder.

I found it on a garage shelf, stored with packets of dried hummingbird nectar.  I mixed up a quart of what looks like red Kool-Aid in a pitcher.  Then I stuck it in my refrigerator and labeled it as such, so the guys in my life won’t try to pour it into a glass.

After the feeder’s various parts were washed and dried thoroughly, I took it to my go-to man: my husband Al.  We decided on a perfect location for the feeder—through my office window at the front of the house where it receives shade most of the day.  I recalled a mistake from my previous hummingbird experience where the feeder sat in the sun and fermented the nectar more quickly.  The present location, above some thick shrubbery, also gives the hummies some nearby shelter in which to rest and hide between feedings.

Al hung it from a bracket so it’s the perfect height for me to enjoy from where I work.  He also remembered to put a protective coating of Vaseline on the plastic bell strung just above the feeder, to deter any marauding ants.

Thrill of thrills—I saw my first hummingbird this morning, a male ruby-throated.  Illusive but determined, he takes a few sips, flits away, comes back.  It only took a day for him to discover the feeder.  I’m hoping he’ll invite the rest of his family and friends to the new watering hole as well.

I’ll keep you posted on what specific species I see.  Maybe I’ll even snap a few pictures of my own. (Thanks to Bob Ayers for the one above.)

Father, what a wonder Your creation is.  You tell us You know every bird, and that everything that moves in the field is Yours.  Each creature, each in its own way, proclaims You as God.  Thank You for the beauty and enjoyment You give through even the tiniest of them, like the energetic little hummingbird.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Suzette

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Ps. 18:2

Lindy Mitchell scanned the fellowship hall amidst the crowd.  Nice decorations, she thought, fingering pieces of “Happy Birthday!” confetti strewn across a table.  Blue and white streamers swagged to the lights.  Shiny helium balloons tugged on their ribbons.

Two Beal Street Church deacons came in, parting the crowd like Moses at the Red Sea.  The blindfolded man they escorted, still looking dignified in the navy suit and tie he’d worn that day to preach in, was none other than Bill Peters, senior pastor at Beal Street.  The men carefully sat the pastor down in a chair at one of the paper-covered tables.

Which was Lindy’s husband Mace’s cue to thunder, “All right, Suzette!  You’re on!”

Suzette Tambeau, her wiry hair and brown skin set off by a coral cotton top, edged backwards through the kitchen door. In her hands tiered an enormous chocolate cake. Everyone in the room held their breath.  Instead of the usual candles, lit sparklers graced the top.  It was nothing short of a miniature fireworks display.

Suzette set the dessert down.  The blindfold was removed, and Bill Peters audibly gasped.  She flashed a white smile.  “For Brother Bill,” she said, “and may God give you many more.”

Suzette began to sing, joined in by the rest of the congregation.  Her alto shimmered in fluid vocal runs, the words falling like gentle rain:

Happy birthday to you—

 Happy birthday to you—

Happy birthday, Brother Bill—

Happy birthday, to you.”

Suzette gave the older man a hug, and the place erupted with cheers.  Julia Peters hugged her husband as well.

“My goodness!”  Brother Bill said. “Suzette, don’t tell me this is your wonderful Doberge cake!  Oh, somebody find me a fork,” he hollered, “and do it quick!”  There was an appreciative ripple of laughter.

Suzette removed the defunct sparklers and handed him a cake server.  “Since it’s your birthday,” she said,  “you can cut the cake, you.”

“Pastor gets first piece,” somebody in the crowd yelled.

“You better believe I’m getting the first piece,” he said.  The crowd tittered.

He sliced into the frosting and stopped.  He sawed harder, stopped.  He tried once more, really leaning into it, without success.  Other than a huge divot of displaced chocolate icing, the cake was still intact.

Brother Bill’s mouth gaped in disbelief, he closed it.  He opened it again, closed it.

“Hey y’all, for once I think Brother Bill’s speechless,” a church member piped up.

“God says in Ecclesiastes there is a time for everything,” said someone else.  Everyone laughed.

Suzette stepped in.  “Here, cher, let me show you somet’ing.”  Lindy noted Suzette’s “cher” came out with a Louisianan flare, pronouncing it like the “sha” in “shack.”

Cake server in hand, Suzette proceeded to bulldoze the chocolate icing from the cake’s top.  Brother Bill groaned.  “No worries, no worries,” she said, patting his shoulder.  “But Pastor, you couldn’t eat this here cake, even if you wanted to.”

She took Brother Bill’s index finger, punched it deep into the exposed layers.  His eyes widened in recognition.  “Hey, it’s foam rubber,” he said.  “Suzette—you made me a fake cake!”

Suzette grinned a devilish smile.  “I did, sir, I did.”  She nodded to the kitchen.  “The real one’s in there, so don’t nobody go nowheres.  I’ll bring it out, and then we have some real goooooo-oddd cake!”

The church family broke out in claps and whistles.  Men standing near Brother Bill slapped him on the back.  Some even stepped up to take a poke at the cake themselves. Happy sounds filled the room.

Suzette headed towards the kitchen, with Lindy close behind.

Suzette Tambeau sang in Mace’s adult choir, was one of the church’s most talented singers, though Lindy barely knew her.  They were relegated to opposite ends of the choir loft, with Lindy barely managing a decent soprano and Suzette commanding the entire alto section.

Lindy cautiously approached.  The plump young woman was bent over the real thing, busy at work.

Lindy cleared her throat. “Suzette, you need any help?”

Suzette whirred around, the knife coated in sticky glaze and cake crumbs.  Her dark eyes took Lindy in, and she grinned.  “Cher, I never turn down help, you’ll find that out tout suite.”  She motioned to a stack of paper plates.  “You hand me some of them plates there, put the pieces on that big tray, take them out for me, okay?”

Lindy hustled the full tray out.  Each piece was claimed quickly, and Lindy returned for more.

Lindy licked frosting off her pinkie as she watched the woman’s practiced hands move in a blur.  Suzette began cutting yet a second similar cake, sliding the pieces onto the tray.

“So while we here, Mrs. Mace,” Suzette said, “tell me ‘bout you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“There’s not much to tell,” Lindy said, rearranging a few plates.

“Go on, you. Tell me anyway.”

“Let me take this out first.”  Lindy took the cake out, quickly emptying her tray again.

Suzette continued in the kitchen in the meantime, although the chatter had now dried up.  She’s waiting, Lindy realized.

She started by telling Suzette how,  after she and Mace had married and opened up Maces’ lifelong dream, a sporting goods store,  God ended up calling Mace into the ministry.  So they trusted God, sold the store, packed off to seminary for two years.  When the position at Beal Street Church became available after Mace’s  graduation, they felt God calling them there to serve.

Suzette snuck a look Lindy’s way.  “You how old?”

“Twenty-six.”

Suzette lifted her chin, pushed out her lips. “What you do all day, Mrs. Mace?”

“I write.”

“You write, huh?  What you write?”

“All kinds of things, mostly articles for magazines.  I get an assignment, I research it, then I write it.”

“You like that?”

Lindy squinted.  “Yeah, I do. My degree’s in elementary education, but a friend got me started in freelance writing.  It’s worked out great because I can control my hours, write when I want to.”

“I tell you now, that’s why I make cakes and clean houses.  I can do it when I need to, so I can be there for my kids.  Ain’t nothin’ more important than that,  ‘specially if you doing it by yourself.”  She sighed.  “But I don’t want to clean and bake forever.  I got plans, big plans, you know what I’m saying, cher?  One of these days, I tell you, I won’t be doing that no more.”

Ambitious lady.  Lindy watched her another moment and knew she’d get there, without a doubt.

Lindy nodded to a small sliver of cake, fallen to the side.  “You mind if I take this one off your hands? I’m dying for a piece.”

“Go ahead, Mrs. Mace.  Tell me what you t’ink.”

Moist, thin layers of chocolatety goodness filled her mouth, accented with secondary notes of  a full-bodied semisweet frosting.  Then another explosion, this time from the chocolate custard cream oozing out between layers, hit her.  What a heavenly dessert!  She ate it all, licked up every crumb.  “Suzette, that’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.  No joke.”

“It is good, that cake.   I make it the way my grand-mere show me.  She worked in a bakery in New Orleans called Gambino’s where they come up with the recipe.”

“Well, it’s gooo-oooddd, as you say.”  Lindy grinned.

A girl, her hair neatly cornrowed and clipped in purple barrettes, ran into the kitchen.  She crossed her arms over her chest. “Mama, Devaun’s making fun of me!  He’s calling me a baby around the other kids.”

Suzette waved the knife.  “Lindy, this is my Portia.  Portia, this is Miss Lindy. Say ‘hi.’”

“Hi,” the child said.

Lindy smiled.  “Hi, Portia.”

Suzette put a hand on her hip. “You go tell your brother I said he needs to stop doing that.”

“I did, Mama, but he won’t listen.” Tears threatened.  “Devaun just won’t listen to me.”

“Brothers can be like that,” Lindy said.  “I know.  I have an older one too.”

Suzette finished off the second cake, rinsed her hands in the sink, pushed Portia toward the door.  “Then we just go find Mr. Devaun and tell him what’s what.  You not a bebe; you six years old, last time I looked.  Too old to wear diapers and too old for a pacifier.  Not a bebe at all.”  She looked at Lindy.  “Will you excuse us?”

Suzette stopped on her way out.  “I’m glad I know Mrs. Mace better now.  See you in choir, cher.”  She pointed.  “And keep it real, okay?”