Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Playing the Piano

A broken heart

Days pass swiftly.
Time seems to be speeding by.

Yesterday I read another chapter from Mary Oliver’s Upstream,
and felt small and late in coming to this place.
Not by informed choice, but from neglect,
and ignorance about this world.

Held back. Stunted. Fenced in.

Living at best a half-life of external demands, distractions,
and danger looming around every corner.

Unsafe. Captive to other’s ideas, attitudes and power.

Now near the end, it seems
I lived a half-life that wasn’t entirely mine.

On quiet days I long for another opportunity to live
and taste life on my terms, from the inside out,
not as a timid onlooker into the lives of others.

Am I ungrateful?
Or just sad….even brokenhearted.

Perhaps a broken heart is a beginning, not the end.
That, and playing the piano as though
for the very first time.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 February 2019
Photo of path in Ireland found on

I’m not my mother

I’m not my mother
Or the young girl
She wanted me to be
Surrounded by friends
Pretty with curls in my hair
Dressed in cheery colors
Enjoying a childhood
Unlike hers lived in fear
Of gossip and taunts
From girls going nowhere
Despite their self-assured
Superiority unknown
In my mother’s world

I fought against my mother. Refused her regular advice about clothes and colors. Felt ashamed of her outgoing ways and her polio-scarred body; her face devoid of make-up. Nothing could hide the tremor on the left side of her face. Or the sight of her estranged mother arriving at grade school, dressed like a diva bearing gifts to her royal daughter.

I endured with chagrin and barely suppressed anger her attempts to make my straight thin hair curly and fulsome, like her beautiful auburn hair.

And…she taught me to play the piano. Cook. Clean. Starch and iron clothes. Make beds. Fold towels and sheets. Organize drawers and cupboards. Things her absent mother never taught her.

There’s a saying I remember from my growing-up years. I didn’t care for it; my mother did. Her kitchen wall hanging proclaimed it boldly: “Bloom where you’re planted.” I couldn’t; neither could she.

Two lost souls thrown together. One extroverted, the other introverted. Both lonely; intelligent; eldest daughters; desperate to be loved and heard; musicians from the inside out. Overshadowed and dominated by a world of men. Unable to play and sing our songs freely without fear of having our wings clipped.

And yet…every time I read My mother’s body, I feel a tug at my heart. Pulling me back toward her. Not out of pity, but with understanding that’s still taking root in me. Softening me toward her and toward myself. Especially when I’m playing the piano, and feel some of her musicality playing through me.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2019
Photo of winter snowdrops found at

Dear Mom, I miss you today.

Eileen & Daughters flipped img003

Mom and Sisters #1, 2 and 3, Easter Sunday 1952 in Savannah. I’m on the right.

Dear Mom,

I miss you today. When I was growing up, I was pretty tight-lipped. I think it was my way of having some privacy. Still, there are things we never talked about that are on my mind today. Probably because I’ve been writing about going to seminary, and what Dad seemed to think about my decision.

Even though you didn’t say much about this, I knew you were proud of me and I never wondered whether I had your blessing. From the beginning you wanted to know about what I was studying, even though I didn’t always want to talk about it.

I can’t thank you enough for showing an interest in my studies and writing, even though you may not have agreed with everything I wrote. I often wonder whether you wanted to go back for more education. You would have been an outstanding student.

As a child and teenager I was proud that you and Dad each had the equivalent of college degrees. Most of my friends’ parents did not. I also knew, though I never said so, that you had a different kind of intelligence and creativity than Dad had. You were quick, eager to learn, and appreciative of help.

I still remember your interest in the music I practised for Mrs. Hanks. Especially the more advanced pieces. You commented about several of them, and suggested you might someday learn to play them. After I left for college, you bought a few classical music books and started working on your favorite pieces.

When I came home to visit I often heard you playing ‘my’ pieces on the piano. I was proud of the way you played the piano. Still, I resented hearing you play ‘my’ pieces. It felt intrusive, and a bit like you were being a copy-cat.

I know that’s neither fair nor kind. It was how I felt back then. Today I believe you were looking for something missing in your life. It couldn’t have been easy to stop and play the piano just for yourself when we all needed attention.

I wonder what you wanted from me that I could have given you. I also wonder what dreams you gave up when you married Dad. Was one of them a dream about studying music or art?

As for sewing, you were the best! I never felt ashamed of anything you made for me. I was always proud to say my Mom made this dress or that skirt. I think Dad took the photo at the top on Easter Sunday. Possibly 1952? Sister #4 hadn’t yet arrived.

Here another favorite photo. It’s a bit grainy, but I still love it. Is this also an Easter dress? I’m pretty sure you made it. In any case, I felt totally feminine wearing it! I like seeing Sister #4 looking up at me. I think this was in 1956/57. I was 13 or 14; Sister #4 was 3 or 4.

If you’d been living in California with me in the 1970s, I’d like to think you would have gone to seminary, too. And maybe even joined the women’s movement! I can dream, can’t I? Actually, I don’t think that’s a far-fetched dream at all.

Love and hugs,

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 January 2016
Photo credit: JERenich
Photos taken in the front yard of our first home in Savannah 

Mystery Tulips and Gratitude

Mystery Tulips 2

My house is filled with small signs and symbols of my past. Sometimes covered with layers of dust. Sometimes sparkling in the sunlight.

This photo caught my eyes and my heart Read the rest of this entry »

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