Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Sister Lewis

When I make new friends, they often are people born in the 1920's - 1950's.  I'm not sure why I'm drawn to them.  I have friends from other decades, too, but I there is nothing like an old man I call "the Swed," the Roni's saving me a seat, Sister Sorenson inviting me for an after school (college classes) snack, or Sister Lewis.

Sister Lewis

As a young teenager, my cousin and I started participating in the Ward Choir.  I'm not sure how we got started there but we went each Sunday.  Apparently we attended often enough that they gave us the job of calling choir members to invite them to choir every Sunday.  Then, Alleson got some music to play and I was playing warm-ups for the choir.  Time passed, and I was fully-engulfed in Ward Choir activities.  I don't have a solo-singing voice but I do enjoy blending my basic alto voice in a group.

Back story: I took piano lessons for 2-3 years in elementary school.  Then, I worked a lot on my own but never on purpose so I'm not sure how my skills developed.  During a junior high school choir class, I watched and learned how to play the chords we used to warm-up at the beginning of class.

Sister Lewis asked me to help the choir by playing warm-ups for our Ward Choir.  I agreed.  Then, she asked if I would play a hymn or two for the choir to practice.  I agreed.  I had become competent in playing most every hymn from the Hymn Book.

Then, I came home from school and discovered that this elderly lady (the age of my grandma) had quickly pulled a bait and switch.  There was sheet music on the piano.  And from there, it only got harder.  The sheet music began to include Cantatas, other instruments, and crazy piano-solos with music and instructions I had never seen.

I spent many evenings in Sister Lewis's living room with me at the piano and Sister Lewis standing behind me teaching me to follow a conductor.  A mirror hung over the piano and we worked together until I could play my music while watching her every move.  She was demanding, which meant we tried and tried again until I could follow her every movement and know exactly how she wanted me to play the music with every break, retard, repeat, volume, and feeling.

Once, I got so frustrated during a choir practice, I decided to quit.  I crumpled my music, tossed it in the waste basket, and walked home.  The next day after school, I came in the front door and there on the piano was my smoothed out music, a card, and a pie.  Sister Lewis didn't let me quit.  Not only that, she made me keep the crumpled music to teach me that giving up wasn't an option. 

I realized that Sister Lewis had performed a miracle the day I played an Easter Cantata that was the wildest, most difficult music I ever played, and I did it without one mistake.  I cannot forget the feeling of being amazed at myself while I played it and realizing, when it ended, that I had done it perfectly.  The choir had also performed without any mistake, and the music had invited a strong feeling to all those who heard it.

Sister Lewis gave me the gift of music.  She gave me the gift of practice.  She gave me the gift of discovering that I had a talent.  She gave me the gift of the feelings that can be felt and released by playing music.  She accomplished this by being selfless and sacrificing a lot of time for a teenaged girl.

Beyond music, she would visit with me about every part of my life; my friends, my family, and my goals.  Her and Brother Lewis often invited me into their home, outside of practicing music.  They even helped me with a report, by telling me about their lives and involvement in WWII.  I heard about both of their lives from pre-war, all the way to the day they moved into the house on my street in the mid-90's. 

After high school, I decided to move across the country to be a nanny.  Sister Lewis asked if I would have lunch with her before I left.  She picked me up in her big Mercedes and took me to Ye Lion's Den.  When we set the day and time, she instructed me to dress nicely to go out.  So, in my church clothes, Sister Lewis and I went to lunch.

"Things are different outside of Utah, Joey.  People are good and kind, but life is not the same."  She mentored me about adjusting to living outside of the Utah environment I was accustomed to.  She encouraged me to find friends and support in the Church in New Jersey but to not close myself off to the all of the other good people I would meet.  Sister Lewis encouraged me to make it my adventure, my time to learn about Joey - the adult.

Sister Lewis.  Her name is Alice, but I would never call her that.  She's my Sister Lewis.  And, I want to be just like her.