December 25, 2017
This is Steve speaking directly, with Abby at my elbow. I am going to borrow Abby's journal, this Christmas morning, to give her her Christmas present. In my exhausted state, these days, as a full-time caretaker and early-morning author, I despaired of writing a decent poem for her this year; and talk about people being hard to buy for, I had no idea what else to get her. But as Christmas Eve arrived, and I had no present at all, I felt that wasn't right, and that I would certainly be hurting her feelings (when you let someone into your heart, even if you are in heaven, of course your heart can still be hurt). So this is what I came up with: I'm going to tell you a few of the past-life memories I have of Abby. Some of the ones I have written about, have seemingly faded. I could repeat what I have written about earlier; but I'd rather be honest and just tell you what remains in my memory, as I write this, today. On the other hand, some of those have to do with our love-making, which I think I will prudently refrain from conveying, here. And then some of them are too sad, having to do with the period when she was slowly dying of consumption. That leaves a couple of odd ones from earlier-on...
As I try to learn some of the songs that Abby used to play to me, when I was Mathew, the feeling of what it was like comes upon me. I don't remember the actual event, in terms of what room we were in, or what the piano looked like, or even what she looked like. But I remember the joy we had in sharing those songs, and my admiration for her. So as the first part of my present, I re-recorded one of our favorites, or, at least the first part of it. I have edited this some, as I am not skilled enough to record it all the way through without making mistakes--and you will see that it is somewhat amateurishly played, even so. But this is somewhat as she would have rendered it. It is my feeling that she would play this around Christmas time, and that it reminded both of us of Christmas church bells. It's called "Sound Aloud Jehovah's Name," and I feel like Abby wants me to give the words, so:
Abby says to tell you that it is sung in a lovely round, which we can't get a sense of, here. But she wants me to look online... Well, we find no music, except for this same sheet music, and if you are musically inclined, you can find it here:
But in any case, here is my re-recording. I wish you could hear Abby play it, as I remember--in my feelings--her playing it. It rang like bells, it was joyous and loud, then soft and tender...
Abby tells me Haydn didn't write it (though the book attributes it to him). She says someone filled with Spirit wrote it in an inspired mood, and that Haydn stole it. She says this often happens, and that you should not get upset (someone, apparently, is upset) when we say that we, together, wrote "A Christmas Carol." This happened, and still happens, all the time, that an unknown person is inspired, and creates real Art, and then some enterprising person with fame, money or worldly connections steals it and gets the credit. Because it is very difficult to have the inspiration and the clout at the same time, she points out!
But I didn't mean to channel Abby, per se, this morning. There are two memories which are still fresh, aside from that of her playing this song for me. And oh, she sang, too--I learned this from my past-life poetry. I wish I could remember that...
We have just recently eloped to the small town of Dover, New Hampshire, in August of 1836. Abby grew up privileged; I grew up on a farm. But we both had cultured parents, and were educated. Now we were really in small-town America, and many of the people were marginally educated and very conservative. We would go to "lyceums," or lecture halls, but the reactions to the speakers were varied. Abby didn't want to stand out, perhaps to avoid bringing persecution down on both of us, and perhaps because she didn't want any other men noticing her and making me jealous. I don't know, but my distinct memory is of standing in the back, and Abby--who is diminutive--is wearing a black cloak with a big hood, so that she practically disappears into the hood. You have seen them on "Star Wars." Her complexion was very fair, and she had freckles, but all you could see was a bit of her nose hiding in the shadow of this hood. But with her quick mind she was taking it all in, and she could recite the whole thing, with accents and wry commentary, when we got back home. That much I feel and also surmise--but I have that one glimpse of her inside that hood. Because, I think it amused me, and probably I would tease her about it.
We are walking up the steps of the First Parish Church (still standing, today) in Dover, where Abolitionist David Root is the pastor. Abby walks beside me, her white-gloved hand resting on my left arm. (Always I see her on my left--but wouldn't a woman have walked on the right?) She seems nervous (and well she should, given the persecution we faced there for our anti-slavery views); but this must have been early in our marriage. I can't believe this beautiful girl is on my arm! It's astounding. I never felt I deserved her. I, myself, am not nervous (which is why I think it is early on, when Abby saw the danger, but I was keeping positive and hopeful). That's all--just that snippet, that vignette. That's the way it always is, with me, for these past-life memories. Just a snapshot, which never changes.
I'll share one more...it is later on in our marriage. We have lost a child, been through persecutions, and we have moved to the big city of Portland, Maine. Abby has many worries, which, again, I tend to make light of, and this only adds to her burden, because she is the only one who sees the dangers. And she is still grieving the loss of our little son, Joseph. But this day, we have gone to see the rowboat races, out on the bay, or in the harbor, probably. We have picked a high spot, so Abby can see. I look over at her, and it seems to me she is wearing a white dress--blowing in the breeze--and a little white hat, like a pill hat. Now, women only, or primarily, wore bonnets in that day. So how I could be remembering a little hat, I don't know, but as said, these memories never change, and you can't edit them to fit what the history books say.
My feeling is, "At last, she is completely happy, completely forgetting her worries, absorbed in the race." I felt grateful to see her enjoying herself, caught up in the moment, cheering on her favorite (someone she knew, or a relative of someone she knew, perhaps, which added to her involvement). Just that much. I don't remember being very much involved in the race, myself--I was so pleased that she was happy and free from her burdens, if only for the moment.
That's all--I won't take up any more of your time, or of Abby's journal.
A very Merry Christmas,
P.S. At the conclusion of our walk along the ocean, as I turned back on the boardwalk to take one last look, I saw two dolphins out in the water. That's the first time in months. I asked Abby if it was her doing, and she gave me to understand that she didn't "create" them or bring them from miles away, but that they were in the area and she nudged them to where I would be able to see them. Another present! (Maybe that was my birthday present, since it's also my birthday, today.)--S