I often wish I had made the effort to enjoy music with my grandmother when she was alive. On lazy days my vinyl treasures blast Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, and Count Basie, with singers from that era. I wonder what facial expressions grandmother would have made, what tapping of a foot or shake of a finger. I crack a bittersweet smile. A slippery clarinet reminds me how I might have entertained her back then, if only I’d practiced more in high school band class, or explored beyond my age-accepted genres.
I’d ask, “Why does that man’s voice wiggle like that when he sings the last word in each stanza?” She’d say, “That was the style in those days,” meaning, “… in my days.”
She’d add her sweet soprano to Marlene’s voice, somewhere between alto and a place exotic. I’d smile, my gleaming eyes telling her how relevant her music and her passion remain. “I never really cared for Dietrich, but the boys sure loved her.”
“What boys?” I’d ask – wondering if she meant one of her husbands, or my uncles – looking for a story.
“The ones that came home after the war.”
But I never was much for listening to stories back then. Wasn’t big on sitting still and paying attention to older folks, even my grandmother. That is why this story never happened.