Radio Diaries: Claire de Lune

Jul 29, 2017

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.