When I finished reading Renewal, the January 23rd verse from my coveted 365 Tao Daily Meditation book, I realized today is the 24th of January, not the 23rd. The date stood out because today is my mother’s birthday. I had made a miss-step somewhere along the way.
I glanced through the living room window to the gray sky, rain tilting to the east from the force of wind. “Good morning Mother. Happy birthday. I hope everything is going well wherever you are, and that you are learning how to be a kinder person.”
With that, I went to my purse, found the small cloth I use to clean my glasses, I gave them a good spray before wiping away the smudges. It was annoying to have only one bit of material suitable for this task. I knew I had others. I knew I tossed a couple into the laundry bag, but where were the rest. I’d always kept them in the bathroom, stuffed into a little crystal bowl they shared with partially used lipsticks. What had become of them?
I rummaged through the bathroom drawer to the right of the sink, removed two jars of face cream that took up so much space everything else was scrunched toward the back. After shuffling combs, tubes of ointments, and bandage boxes to the side, there were no eyeglass cloths.
I opened the adjacent drawer, took out bunches of baggies, a black felt pouch, a fancy silver jewelry holder, shoved several plastic containers of hair conditioner out of the way, but no luck locating the little cloth wipes.
My search gleaned no results. In defeat, I returned to my cozy recliner, and gazed at the rain. Where on earth could I have stashed the darn clothes? Irritated to no end, my eyes caught sight of the four drawer cabinet next to the computer. The last repository that could logically contain a proper means of cleaning my glasses. I scrounged around the top drawer, and nothing. The second drawer proved to be equally as unproductive until I spotted the corner of an envelope. Out of curiosity I slid it away from its dusty comfort zone. It was an old letter from my mother.
Not sure what motivated me, but I set it on my computer table. Before giving up the search, I noticed several sheets of yellow legal paper that had been folded and contained notations. Without reason, I set it atop the envelope, closed the drawer, and left both behind as I collected my dirty clothes that included my glass cleaning cloths, soap packets, fabric softener sheets, and quarters before heading to the laundry room.
When I returned, drenched with rain, I draped my soggy jacket over the back of the computer chair. Glancing at the desk, my eyes caught the first few lines of text on the yellow lined paper. “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven” … words that brought my mind to an abrupt halt. It had been many years since they had crossed my path. It was the name of a song Grandma and Mom heard on the radio when she was a young girl. She had first told me this story so long ago. I recall asked if she remembered the words. She was quiet for a minute, then started reciting what she recalled. I hadn’t paid much attention then, but the second time she told it I grabbed the only writing material available, the yellow pages that were now in front of me, and started to record every word. I could tell the song held a very deep meaning for her. Grandma had passed away many years earlier. Although they had a rocky relationship, Mom loved her dearly, and no doubt still missed her
Mom told me she had only hear the song once. It was sung by a woman, and it left a lasting impression. I recalled it being a sad tune about a seven-year-old girl whose mother had died and she wanted to use the telephone to talk to her. I could imagine my mother wishing it was possible, and held the thought tightly throughout the years.
It didn’t occur to me until, after reflection, that this song was probably real, and I might possibly find it using Google. I turned on my computer and did a search. There were a half-dozen references to the song, but I decided to check Wikipedia first. I was stunned to see the description of “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven”, just as Mom recalled it. As I scanned the information, they noted that it was originally sung by Byron G. Harlan around 1913, but was later recorded by the Carter Family, noting Sara and Maybelle. It was a very popular country tune back then, so it surprised me that Mom and Grandma only heard it once. What was most amazing was that Mom did remember words from one verse, over sixty years later. I did a further search and discovered a YouTube video of Sara and Maybell singing it. Of course I listened, while picturing Mom and Grandma in the kitchen at the old farmhouse where Mom grew up, huddled near the radio, trying to catch every word.
Now, I imagine no one would find this story startling, except that today is Mom’s birthday, and I barely even remembered. That’s partially because Mother left this earthly plane back in 1998, nearly twenty years ago. Of course we never forget our parents, and January 24th will always be special in that regard. But, to have talked to her this morning, not very kindly, and then discovering the letter, then the son song, that I wasn’t looking for, jotted on the yellow paper after so many years, well … that gave me pause.
Mom didn’t share much that had any real sentiment attached. To say that she was reserved when it came to positive emoting, is an understatement. She was terrific at anger and stoicism, but rarely shared anything that was heart-warming. Finding the words on those yellow sheets of paper this morning did bring her near, in a sweet way. I don’t know if I believe in spiritual intervention, but if an experience were to make me a believer, it just happened.
Happy birthday, Mom. I’m thrilled to have finally found your song in Wikipedia, that I could actually listen to it, and to finally have all of the verses. I think I can happily close this chapter of your life. But, I honestly do wish there was a phone I could pick up, call you, and recite the lyrics.
Lyrics of “Hello Central”
Papa I’m so sad and lonely,
Sobbed a tearful little child
Since dear mama’s gone to heaven
Papa darling, you’ve not smiled
I will speak to her and tell her
That we want her to come home
Just you listen and I’ll call her
Through the telephone
Hello Centra, give me heaven
For my mama’s there
You can find her with the angels
On the golden stair
She’ll be glad it’s me who’s speaking
Call her, won’t you please
For I want to surely tell her
We’re so lonely here
When the girl received this message
Coming o’er the telephone
How her heart thrilled in that moment
And the wires seemed to moan
I will answer just to please her
Yes dear heart. I’ll soon come home
Kiss me Mama, kiss your darling
Kiss me through the telephone
© Shari Adams
About the author shari2845