To Sing

Prairie Resch '21
Molly from the apartment above us is playing piano again, even though it’s long past dinnertime. I don’t recognize the song, but it’s a lovely, full sound, with a swelling of low chords that echoes into our apartment and a higher aria of notes that are harder to hear, but are still there if I listen closely. Maybe it’s a Christmas carol; it sounds like one. Being Jewish, I just don’t know which.
I’ve been listening to Molly learn to play for years, since she moved in eight years ago with her upright piano. She was ten years old, then, but already very good with music, and I learned to enjoy the scales and minuets trickling down into my apartment. Rarely would she play classical music--most of it was pop songs or wide, sweeping arrangements of folk songs--but when she did, it was songs I’d never heard before, uncommon composers, and all of it played with such love. You never knew what she would be playing on any given day, but you knew it would be beautiful.
Whenever my son comes to visit, he seems faintly annoyed by the frequent music, although he has the good graces to never express it. He’s always been a solitary creature, like me, both of us happiest in our own silences. For him, it was the library, and hours spent pouring through literature or roaming the stacks, fingers dragging across spines in the sacred quiet.
For me, it was the outdoors. I was the kind of girl to hike for days on end, carrying only a backpack, lacking even a destination until I reached it. Hiking, always alone, never lonely.
Now I’m nearly 85 and those days are long gone. My husband died young, and I left the mountains of Maine, moved south to DC, and bought an apartment not too far from my son and his job at the Library of Congress, but I had never worried about being alone. Of course, I’ve traded the open trail for Molly’s piano, but that’s alright. That’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes we have to trade in what we love for things we don’t yet know.
On the other hand, after eight years even my old lady brain knows some of Molly’s songs well enough that I can hum them note for note. They come to me in waves as I walk through the parks of DC—somehow the parks are so much lonelier than a mountain trail. The music helps. I’ll catch myself humming out loud when people nearby give me strange looks, but I’m past the age of worrying about what people think. Besides, sometimes it’s fun to be a crazy old lady.

Through the ceiling, Molly stops playing. I hear her shout something, too muffled to make out, a burst of laughter, and then a resounding major chord. Then at once, a rush of song bursts through accompanied by the piano. A small squadron of voices, belting out together, full of joy and laughter and warmth, and without too much regard for pitch. Youthful voices, all singing, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Then, after decades of being alone, I am lonely. I remind myself that my son will be here tomorrow for the last night of Hanukkah, but that’s only the two of us--we’re all the family either has left now. In the kitchen I sing along to the refrain, but it feels quiet and sad in this space. Upstairs, it is loud and joyous.
I do something I’ve never done before.
At 9:30 at night, I take the elevator up one floor, my heart beating faster than it should, and I scold it, reminding myself that I am an old lady who no longer cares what people think. But I do. I want to see that joy without disrupting it. For a short time, I do care.
The apartment door is propped open, music and light ribboning out into the hallway, Molly leading another song now. From here, I can hear the different voices, many young, some older than I expected, all gathered up in song, and I wonder how I ever truly loved silence when music is so human and natural. Perhaps I just know silence better. Or at least, I thought I did.
I stand there, mesmerized, listening as another song begins. A Christmas song, fewer people singing the words, but still jostling to snatch the high notes, and laughter when they fall short. Another winter song, a cheesy pop song that is greeted with cheers, and then the click of an opening door.
Molly’s father sees me, framed in the light like some strange nocturnal creature, and hardly hesitates. “Would you like to come in, Mrs. Klein?”
“I was just listening to the music,” I start, and he throws open the door all the way.
“Then come enjoy it with a cup of something,” He says. “These are the holidays. Neighborly duty and all that, you know? Besides, Molly made it very clear that anyone who wanted could come, and that includes you.”
Too rattled to argue, I follow him, and find myself seated on the sofa with a cup of cranberry tea and a gingerbread cookie, feeling very small and out of place. Perhaps I shouldn’t have ventured out. It was nice enough listening to the party from downstairs.
“Mrs. Klein,” Molly says cheerfully, her face flushed with excitement and her hair made wild by the heat and energy of the room. “What would you like to hear?”
“Oh dear, I don’t really know.” I say. “I don’t know many holiday songs.”
“It can be anything, really.”
I think of the voices swelling muffled through the ceiling, and I’m surprising myself by saying, “I know you already played it before, but I couldn’t hear it so well. Would you play Let it Snow again? You all sounded wonderful from downstairs, I’m sure it sounds even lovelier up here.”
“Of course I can.”
A young man next to Molly jumps to his feet with a whoop as she strikes the first chord. Someone hands me a caroling sheet opened to the song, and I’m too flustered to see who or to thank them properly, but this time as Molly’s piano rings out, I do my best to sing along.

All Comments

No comments have been posted

Leave a Comment

Abby Fossati
Prairie Resch

Photography/Art Editors
Jessica Chapman
Joanna Wei

Prose Editors
Alexander Yuen
Amanda Wang

Poetry Editors
Abigail Kruger
Caroline Asnes
Pearl Miller

Event Coordinators
Ella Ip
Fiona Li

Web Editor
Julia Kosinski

Faculty Advisor 
Ms. Renee Harlow