|Although Paula was much prettier, |
reminds me of her.
When she would sing, her voice
filled up every single room
in the house.
Our family regularly included someone living with us for one of any number of reasons: to house sit or to help out, to wait for another house to open up, to have a place while going to college, etc. So to have another person come and live with us was a normal thing.
Paula came to our house when we heard she needed a place while going through a transition in her life. Paula was the one who gave our sons and me voice and piano lessons. So, when she moved in, she continued and added helping with dinners four evenings a week. For me, a working mom with a heavy travel schedule, it was heaven!
Paula lived with us for a year and a half. Paula was a gentle woman of amazing stories. These stories were shared with a humble heart that had experienced a side of life that was totally foreign to us.
Through her, I learned what it was like to live growing up with great grandparents who were former slaves, living through the civil rights movement, and daily dealing with racism in her work, her church and her community. Throughout her ordeals, she never lost sight of what she loved and found a way to actively pursue her first love: singing opera.
After a few months of music lessons, we had recitals at our house, and she would show off the boys' developing talents. Then, at our insistence, she would sing. She would sing in Latin, then German, and follow it up with pieces from opera in English and Italian. She would get herself in a corner (an effective acoustic strategy) and then open her mouth and fill that whole house with sound. Her opera training gave her a set of lungs that blew us away.
Into our house of men, she brought the beauty and drama of a life well lived. Her care of the boys was very parent-centered and her mild manner and humility made it easy to immediately claim her as family. Her stories of her great grandfather and her early battles with racism, were received with respect and awe.
The power of Paula was such that she had a steely reserve and a gentle touch: an abundance of talent and the humble willingess to share it with us rookies. Meekness, might, humility and grace blessed our home and she became one of our dearest friends. She opened my eyes to the depth of character we all possess, and how an earnest listening ear can bring out the brilliance in another. She certainly brought out all that was good in our family. She gave our home a consistency of mothering for that year and a half, teaching us compassion, how to cook and how to live by singing out our hearts.