When I was a teen, I played flute in the church choir. My close friend, Harris, was a loyal church-goer and she asked me to join her. We would play duets, or she would play solo and I would be able to turn the pages for her. She was much more talented than I but, nevertheless, if we were both there, of course we would be trying to make each other laugh the whole time. Some of the hymns we loved were: Be Not Afraid and Like a Sunflower. A song that still floats through my mind today when I am in the garden with my sunflowers.
Sometimes, while sitting in the choir area of the church beside Harris, way over to the left side of the altar, my mind would flit back to when I was a little girl in the choir of the Saturday Evening Folk Masses of the 1970s. My eldest sister Eva, with her amazing soprano voice, her leadership and enthusiasm for music, would lead the whole congregation through folk songs like: Here We Are; and Kumbaya and Jesus is a Soul Man. She would be right up front of the pews. Her long, straight hair flicking from side to side as she would stride around motioning to the congregation to sing louder and stronger, tapping her tambourine on her leg. The guitars strumming wildly. Pride would be welling up through my little body as I sat in awe of my teenage sister. Those folk masses were powerfully spiritual and I will never forget them. Sadly, almost half a century later, my beloved sister Eva, for some unknown neurological reason, completely lost her hearing and consequently a god given talent – her ability to sing soprano. It was a bitter pill to swallow for all of us who love her but, My God, especially for her. Thankfully, a few years later, Eva was fitted with a Cochlear Implant but, she will tell you, it is not the same as hearing with your own ears and her ability to sing has been diminished almost completely. Eva has told me that her voice no longer sounds like her own. Tragic!
One of the musical moves with a flute is a trill. It is rapid alternation between two notes. I learned that in music class. Because of music class, in which we were seated beside each other, and because Harris was not the typical 19-year old, we become friends even though she was two years my senior. We hit it off instantly and had so many fun times and laughs together. On a daily basis we would find something to laugh about and double over with the hilarity of it. Like the name I have chosen for her in this story. We were standing by her locker in the East wing of North High School when she told me about a classmate who called her ‘Harris’ by mistake. From then on, she was ‘Harris’. We would giggle every time it was said. She had this wonderful sense of humour, and still does, I am sure.
She too was from a large family – I’m fairly certain her family wasn’t any where near as crazy as mine, though. At the time we were friends, I was living down the basement of our bungalow with my Dad, with the upstairs rented out to strangers. My Mom had moved into an apartment with my little brother, Luke, and her alcoholic boy-friend, Earl-the-Pearl. I hated my home life with a great deal of passion. I would arrive at the house with a sense of dread upon entering. Ok, that is just wrong. It was a messed-up way to live. Consequently, Harris, and her wonderfully stable family were very important to me. I spent a lot of time with her and them that year. At one point I even dated her younger brother and we would all three hang out and sometimes their younger brother, Peer too, playing charades and the new game: Trivial Pursuit, which they were good at. Really good.
We did some very fun things together. One time, we canoed down a river near Walden. Her Dad dropped us off and picked us up at the other end hours later – something my Dad would not dream of doing. If it wasn’t about hockey, forget it. That canoe trip was a very special time for me. I loved that day with Harris and and her brother Fred. They had a way of making me feel like a special person to them. They knew how to treat me like a good friend. I cherished them.
The school put on the musical Anything Goes that year and Harris and I were chorus members and dancers together. We had an absolute blast with this. During part of the dance, I had to pick her up and swing her from one of my hips to the other. Try doing that without cracking up a few times. That musical turned out fantastically. I remember my Dad was very skeptical about it. He said I was wasting too much time on it. Well, he came to opening night, sat in the front row and laughed his head off. His booming laughter spurned others on and so the whole house was dying with laughter the whole night. My Dad and I share the love of laughter, for sure.
Harris and Fred came up to the camp that summer. They showed me how to gunnel-bob. Two of us standing on the gunnels, or the ends, of the canoe and then taking turns bending knees to make the canoe move down, then up in the water until one of you falls in. Oh my. That was so fun! We had a party in number eight cabin and although harmless, it got a bit loud. Dad kicked Harris and Fred out of the camp the next day. I was furious and sorely, blackly disappointed, not to mention embarrassed. To this day, I really think Dad may have just simply been jealous of my friendship with these wonderful people.
The following year, Harris went away to University and although I would see her from time to time, it just never was the same. I was progressing into a more and more dysfunctional evolution of myself. I see now, that it wasn’t my fault. I was a teen-child and I wasn’t supported. Rather I was controlled and criticized and worse.
I will never forget the year that Harris and I were inseparable friends. She was a god-send.
(All photos courtesy of google images)
Leave a comment! I love ’em. ~M