Norman, my mother, and me
wife and I are beginning to reach that uncomfortable stage of
life when our children have decided that our music is not
necessarily cool. Whereas they once found Frank Sinatra’s
voice to be soothing, they wince now whenever I give old
Franky's records a spin, as if someone were drawing
fingernails across a blackboard. They prefer other music. For
instance, I brought home a friend’s album of blues music,
which was composed by highly depressed people from Oregon who
have not seen the sun in weeks. The words went something like
My family they done left me
My dog and cat left too
There’s a gallstone in my kidneys
And my income tax is due.
The children loved it. They couldn’t get enough of
it. “Play it again, Dad!” they say, their heads swaying
from side to side, “Play it again!”
When I was a teen, there was nothing more important
than music. Music came ahead of eating, sleeping, and
sometimes hockey. Stephen Rendall and I would purchase the
latest contemporary Christian albums, rush them home, tape
them, then insert them into our car tape decks. How we prided
ourselves on those tape decks. Who cared about the car? I
drove a 1970 rust-colored Ford Maverick with an engine that
would not have powered my mother’s sewing machine, let alone
allow one to receive a speeding ticket. I didn’t care at
all. You see, I had 100-watt speakers in the back window and
the wisdom to know that no mere machinery could move you like
One day Stephen pulled up in his 1970 maroon Montego.
Pin stripes. White walls. Genuine imitation sheepskin
“Climb in,” he said, a grin connecting his ears.
I climbed in.
“Roll up your window.”
I rolled it up.
Then, as we pulled away, he calmly inserted a Larry
Norman tape, adjusted his sunglasses, and set the volume to
Moments later our ears were pasted to the headrests
I was lost and blind then a Friend of mine
came and took me
by the hand.
And He led me to His kingdom
that was in another land.
Now my life has changed it’s rearranged,
when I think of my past I feel so strange.
Wowie zowie well He saved my soul,
He’s the rock that doesn’t roll.
“STEVE,” I yelled.
“THAT’S GREAT! ABSOLUTELY GREAT!”
He turned the volume way down to 5. “You’re gonna
be late for what?”
“No, I said that’s GREAT. Turn it up.”
Now you must understand that I was reared in a
conservative community where such practices were frowned upon.
Where Larry Norman was often confused with Led Zeppelin and
the Beatles. This so-called Christian music was shallow, we
were told, and, at best, would cause us to lose our hearing.
“You play that junk around the house,” my trumpet teacher
told me, “and you will kill your mother’s plants.”
“Ha, impossible,” I responded, before disguising my
Imperials albums in George Beverly Shea jackets.
“Listen to this,” I said to Dave Adkins one
afternoon, as we huddled near my brother Tim’s stereo,
hoping he wouldn’t show up and murder us for touching his
stuff. Nervously, I dropped the needle on the latest from the
All we need is a little more time
to get it together.
There’s a whole lot of people
been tryin’ to get it together,
Like you and me—ooh ooh—that’s all we need
to be free, is a little more time to get it
“Wow,” said Dave, “I didn’t know George Beverly
Shea sounded like that. He’s hot!”
“And deep,” said I. “Wow.”
It was during
those interesting days that I began playing music to another
friend. My mother. Almost every night I would invite her into
my room and attempt to cross her eyes with the latest from
Chuck Girard, Phil Keaggy, The 2nd Chapter of Acts—even
Petra. For some reason she always found time to pull up a
chair and listen. I’m sure she rarely enjoyed my choices
(just how much can a 55-year-old glean from “Lend an ear to
a love song. Ooh ooh a love song. Let it take you, let it
start”?), but she always cared enough to listen. And she
encouraged me when she heard something praiseworthy.
Sometimes my wife and I celebrate Nostalgia Night.
After the kids are in bed, we pull out old record albums (are
there any other kind?) and listen to songs that bring the
memories flooding back. Memories of simpler times. Memories of
hot cars and trumpet teachers. And of a mother who cared more
for me than her plants. A mother who loved me enough to enter
Tonight, as I reminisce, I realize again how much
greater is the influence of one who cares. One who takes time.
For, you see, she who yells loudest is not always heard the
best. While many of my friends heard only, “Turn it down,
turn it off, or throw it out!” I was privileged to have a
mother with the wisdom to say, “If he’s going to listen,
I’d like to know what he’s listening to.”
Sometimes I miss those days. The talks after the music
died down. Perhaps Mom does, too. Although she probably
doesn’t miss the music that much. At least not as much as I
miss my hearing.
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© 2012 Phil Callaway. Read more