Call Miss Beulah - We're Singing Tonight
Many artist have painted the sky, but it’s the soul beneath the paint brush that gives interpretation. Vincent, lived in a dark world with an illness which doctors didn’t know how to treat. He suffered physically and mentally with only his palette to express his humanity, pain and passion. One of his many quotes was “Eyes that watch can’t forget.” It reminds me of a night scene in my own life I can’t forget. If I were an artist, I would paint it.
On my palette would be the blues and grays, like Vincent used. And of course, “There are no blues or grays without yellow and orange,” another quote. First, I’d paint the sky a violet haze. Then, a dark silhouette of two country homes, both with a wide porch across the front. A gravel road running through the middle. On one porch, a lady sitting in a swing, a lamp in the window lighted yellow. On the other porch would be children sitting in swings, on chairs and the steps with their mouths open singing into the night. Last, I’d paint a silver moon, full and casting light across the roofs and on the gravel road.
The Lady in The Swing
The lady sitting in the swing is Miss Beulah. She was a refined lady, a Christian, and respected by the whole community. She had no children, so there was never an occasion for me to visit her except when mama sent me to her house with a message. I’d knock on her screen door and she would come smiling, opening it in a wide arc, “Hello! Come in here.” Turning, as if it were routine and walking back to her kitchen, me behind her. She pushed a blue dish of cookies across the kitchen table, “Here, sit down.”
The Children On The Porch
The children sitting in swings and chairs and on the steps are my family. We were a family of 11 kids. We played hard, and worked hard. There was no T.V. We played ball and invented our own games. And we were singers. We love to harmonize. My older sisters performed at church and school. They said I was humming harmony at 3 years old, but joined in the group at 5. That's one way to get invited to community functions. We got lots of free dinners.
Rise right up to heaven
Miss Beulah was at the local grocery store and saw daddy pulling into the parking lot, and waved to him. She went over to the car and said, "Mr. Eddlemon, I was out on my porch last night and I heard your children singing. I want you to know when I heard them across that field, I felt like I could rise right up to heaven.” This pleased daddy. She continued, "Any time your kids are out there singing I'd appreciate it if you'd call me." A night or two later, daddy came in smiling, “I’m calling Miss Beulah tonight girls, so y’all better practice up." In a teasing way, he said, "Why, this is going to be your first concert.” Benny, 7 yrs old, jumped up out of her chair, her eyes wide, “Concert!" She yelled, "What are we gonna wear?” Bernice scolded, “We don’t dress up, stupid! It’s gonna be in the dark and the lady lives a quarter mile away.” Everybody laughed, and Benny was embarrassed. She screwed up her hate face, and stomped off.
Our First Performance
Our first performance was barefoot and in pajamas. We sang extra loud, so Miss Beulah would get the full effects.
Amazing Grace and I'll Fly Away, When The Saints Go Marching In
Hallelujah Thine The Glory, Precious Lord Take My Hand
Down By The Riverside
We stopped and listened. Strange. Just silence, no accolades. Then we heard the rusty spring on Miss Beulah’s screen door open and close softly. We clapped for ourselves. Benny got up and placed one hand on her midriff and took bows toward her house. We giggled for the rest of the night. Somehow we felt we had done a good deed, and hoped Miss Beulah would feel Holy through the night.
We gave many encore performances. I have wondered many times what it would be like to hear children singing on a starry night, their voices ringing across an open field. We knew Miss Beulah appreciated us. She waved and honked at us when she drove by our house. Sometimes she would stop and bring us a sack of penny candy.
Daddy has a stroke
Daddy had a stroke in 1952. He was left paralyzed in both legs and his speech was slurred. We kids had left home, spread out all over the State of Tennessee, but some of us managed to go home every weekend to help mama and give her a break from all the responsibility. It worked out on one of those weekends, several of us showed up. Enough of us to form a harmonizing group. Since we were all together, we decided to see how rusty we were. We gathered around daddy’s bed and started singing his favorite gospel song, I’ll Fly Away. Big tears came in his eyes, and he motioned ‘come here’ with his hand. He was trying to tell us something, but we couldn't understand, all the while, moving his hand in a circular motion. We looked to mama for interpretation as she was used to his shorthand communication. She smiled with just a touch of pity and said, “He just wants you to call Miss Beulah.”
I'll Fly Away
So we cranked the two and half rings, “Hello, Miss Beulah? This is the Eddlemon kids. We are visiting daddy this weekend and he wants us to sing to you like we used to, is that O.K.?” We stepped back from the mouth piece and sang in our grown-up voices, 'I'll Fly Away, O Glory, I'll Fly Away', so loud it vibrated the walls. Miss Beulah shouted, “Amen! You tell Mr. Eddlemon I sure do thank him for sharing that with me. Tell him I’ll stop by tomorrow.”
I moved away at seventeen, and didn’t realize at the time, how much influence a good person, without even trying, can have such influence on a person’s life. So I have to thank you Miss Beulah, for teaching me to hold the door open wide to hearts that need me, and sing loud the message of hope to ears within my reach. Rest in peace.
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