As a child, I learned to recognize a certain melody whenever it came on the radio because my mother would announce, “That’s ‘Claire de Lune’ by Debussy.” She never told us why she loved that piece of music—and I realize I never asked.
My mother had a beautiful singing voice and majored in music at college, hoping to pursue a career as a performer. Traveling to California to find her fortune, she had several impressive offers but didn’t take any of them.
Instead she came home to Michigan to sell shoes in a department store and sing in the church choir—where she met my father. Hearing these stories, I was glad she didn’t become a singer because I wanted her to be my mother.
Now I wonder how she felt about that choice. It used to embarrass me when she sang in the kitchen in front of my friends. But when I stood next to her in church, I mouthed the words to the hymns so that I could hear her voice.
I can still hear her singing “Claire de Lune.” The melody is so full of loveliness and longing, it seems to contain everything I know about my mother’s life—and everything I don’t know.