The Angels Sing by: Nancy Malcolm
Playing outside in a gentle rain, stomping through puddles, and laughing wholeheartedly
Eating ice cream for breakfast
Wearing my Easter dress shoes to school before they became too small.
Coloring outside the lines
My daddy would say these things were frivolous, irresponsible, even wasteful. Thus, the spontaneous gene was not passed down to me. It died a fast death somewhere between The Great Depression and my mother’s passing.
Growing up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, we were rarely allowed to have fun. My father, a recent widower, was structured and purposeful as electrical engineers are prone to be. I feel he became even more so due to my mother’s absence. He felt overwhelmed at times and we could tell because his voice would rise, and he would enunciate his words with harsh diction and authority. We, my brother and I, knew exactly when his anger would peak and tried to avoid it at all costs. He never admitted his struggle to hold us together and remain functional, as that would have been seen as weakness.
I remember one specific time when I saw my father happy. He was in the kitchen making us a homemade pizza. Benny Goodman, The King of Swing, was playing on the turn table and my father was drinking a Gibson. This stood out to me because he was not really a drinker and I had never before seen little white onions on a toothpick. Daddy was dancing to the music and making our pizza, and my brother and I felt awash with his happiness and sudden break from our strict routine. It was a spontaneous moment for Daddy, and we were witnesses to his ability to laugh and dance. Now, as I look back, I say ‘bless him.’ He wanted just a few minutes of normalcy, a few minutes of fun. Perhaps he had a memory of my mother floating along with the smooth clarinet notes, holding her in his arms and swaying to the beat.
The story doesn’t end well, though, because my brother and I complained about the pizza with garlic, tomatoes, olives and other strange ingredients. We were kids doing what kids do, but the mood ended as my father began to feel frustrated with our immature pallets and bickering protests. I remember the music being turned off and us having peanut butter, while he finished his drink and pizza. I felt his sadness reappear as another lonely Friday night came to an end.
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra played a song entitled, “And The Angels Sing.” This was popular around 1939 and the early ‘40’s and just listening to it brings back so many memories of my dad through the years. He loved jazz. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie to name a few, were his favorites. On rare occasions, his music seemed to transport him to a more carefree time, and it showed on his face and in his demeanor. Sometimes he would break into a Charleston or foxtrot by himself, always on beat and always with a smile. And I was always amazed at his spontaneous display of pure joy.
‘Bless him’ and bless Bennie Goodman for showing us a part of our father we might never have seen. This must have been the part my mother fell in love with. She probably admired his spontaneity and smooth moves on the dance floor, and no doubt, as she looked down on us from above, she wanted nothing more than for him to be happy again, carefree and spontaneous.
We meet and the angels sing,
The angels sing the sweetest song I ever heard,
We speak and the angels sing,
Or am I reading music into every word?
You smile and the angels sing,
And though it’s just a gentle murmur at the start,
We kiss and the angels sing,
And leave their music ringing in my heart.