Heart Song

Oh, Joy! WP is offering us a daily one-word prompt all through April to help us avoid boredom (I’m never bored) or to relight the fire of our muses.

The word for today is Song. **********************

Carrie didn’t remember, of course, but her mother often told her she’d been singing since the day she was born. “You always calmed and quieted if you heard music,” Mama said. “You would look into my eyes and coo right in the same key as the music! We thought it was just a coincidence but by the time you were six months old we knew better. You were recognizing songs and you could follow the melodies of songs you heard often. We knew you were special!”

Mama had a sweet soprano voice herself, and it wasn’t long before she and toddler Carrie were harmonizing simple songs as they went about their daily routines. The house was always filled with song, a delight for nearby neighbors and friends.

It wasn’t long before Carrie was singing every evening for her neighborhood, and through them the word spread. Soon their yard was far too small, and they moved to the park in the central square. Carrie stood on the bandstand, her voice soaring across the park and beyond.

As she grew, so did her voice. Strong, rich, with an incredible range and a lovely vibrato, she knew every song she was asked to sing. Flowers and other small gifts arrived at her door every day.

One day, when Carrie was 17, a loud knock rattled the door of the small cottage. Mama opened the door, and was rudely pushed aside by a handsome man in a dark uniform.

“Where’s the girl? The singer? I want to see her!” demanded the man.

Mama drew herself upright and glared at the man. “Who are you? What do you want with my daughter? You have no right to barge into my home!”

“I have every right! You are Jews! I am an officer of the SS! Now, bring your daughter out here, or you both will suffer!”

Mama died of typhus in the camp. Carrie, broken-hearted, lost her desire to sing. There was nothing to sing about in that dark, miserable place. Her song was stilled. She kept her head down and endured, along with hundreds of other starving, helpless women.

One day, there was no roll call. There were no officers, no guards with clubs and rifles. The women fearfully peered out the doors of their quarters, wondering at the silence. They spent the day getting showers, washing their filthy prison uniforms, and cooking from the supplies of the German officers.

The next day, the Americans arrived. Usually boisterous and friendly, they were silenced by the rows of gaunt, bruised, bleak-eyed women. The silence seemed to go on without end, until one woman, just as gaunt as the rest, her head shaved, lips cracked, a huge bruise along one cheek, stepped forward. She raised her head, took a deep breath. To everyone’s surprise, she began, softly at first, to sing.

“America, America! God shed His grace on thee! And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”

When she finished, there was silence once more. Briefly. Before the cheering, crying and laughing erupted.

Freedom was going to take some getting used to, but once again the air was filled with glorious song.