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The Music

The Music
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
The Music
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

It was an overcast Sunday in Katy, Texas, and my husband, Gene, and I pulled into the driveway and parked our rental car.

“Well, this is the first visit to your brother and sister-in-law’s house,” I said, referencing Gene’s newly found family he discovered using genetic testing.

The door swung open and exposed Chris and Leslie — smiles as big as the sun across their faces. They welcomed us into their home just as they welcomed us into their lives a few weeks ago.

I spotted it right away. A baby grand piano was the centerpiece of a room off of their foyer that was once called their dining room. Today, they call it their “music room.” One wall showcases a dozen or so whimsical photos of their four children — Mikah, Grace, Luke and Eli — participating in band through the years. In the last few weeks, as we have gotten to know Gene’s biological family, we have learned that Chris, Leslie and their children are all musically inclined.

As we admired the piano, Leslie shared the story of how they came to have the piece of functional furniture.

“It belongs to Grace,” she said. “We are keeping it for her until she gets out of nursing school and gets a permanent place of her own. It’s a long story, but our neighbor gave it to her when she moved to Florida. She and her husband had to downsize their possessions and there was no room for the piano in their new house. She gave it to our daughter, because Grace often went over to their house and played it.”

Leslie continued, “She’s driving here today from College Station to meet you, and maybe she can play it for you.”

“We’d love that,” I said. As the day unfolded, one by one, we met Gene’s nieces and nephews. Eli came down from his room first with sleepy eyes. Luke was next, with a head full of curls. Grace arrived next, walking into her home and staring at Gene’s face — a face that resembles her father’s.

“Wow,” she said, “This is weird.” We agreed. Mikah and her husband, Jake, arrived shortly before lunch and presented a jar of peach preserves to us.

“We know you guys have peaches in Georgia, and we thought you may enjoy trying Texas peaches,” Mikah said.

We ate lunch and stepped outside to take a few photos. Mid afternoon, Leslie asked Grace if she would play her piano for us. We filed into the music room.

“I heard Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi and thought it was so beautiful, so I learned to play it,” she said. “And at some point, I thought it would be interesting to add in melodies from ‘Amazing Grace.’” “A mash up, I think they call it,” Leslie interjected.

The young nurse-to-be took a seat and positioned her fingers above the ivory keys. Five seconds later, her hands danced up and down the keyboard and music filled the space. We stood near the baby grand and watched as something almost spiritual happened to us. The music entered our ears and pulsed through our bodies. It touched our souls as if to say, “Wake up. Feel the music.”

The impromptu concert was a grand spectacle.

That night, as Gene and I recounted meeting the nieces and nephews for the first time, he said, “And when Grace played the piano, I was almost overcome with emotion. It went inside me. It made me feel happy and so sad I thought I might start crying.”

I understood. I, too, felt this contrast of emotions during Grace’s performance. There were high notes and low notes, joy and sadness, familiar melodies and unfamiliar. It was as lovely as the weekend, as we grew to love these Texas strangers that are connected to Gene.

They say that music soothes the savage breast, and I have never understood that phrase until this past weekend. In years to come, as I remember this trip and all the hugs and handshakes and stares, I’ll remember standing in that space and feeling the music — and love — inside my body.

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