One Small Thing

It comforted me.  The music.  Not like the kind of comfort you feel when you are hurting or sad.  Nor the kind of comfort you need when you are lonely or afraid.  I’m talking about the kind of comfort that feels safe like a soft blanket.  I was five years old and this music felt like warm flannel pulled up to my chin.

Toddy, my big brother, memorized the words fast.  He would later become the life of family parties as he belted out ‘There ain’t nothing like a dame,’ or ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’ to an audience of hilariosity and hoopla.  Even his own honeymoon would be tempered by the front desk calling and asking the ‘king of the forest’ to pipe down.  I listened gathering steam for the years ahead.

My parents played LP’s on their stereo outside the bedroom door of their four kids – all sharing a bedroom – with one set of bunkbeds on either side of the room.  For some reason that I can’t ask them about today, they felt their parenting would be enhanced by playing operetta or show tunes while we read in bed for one hour before lights out.  How was I to know that they were right?  Decades later I wouldn’t only play songs for my children during reading hour, but rather, all day long.  My four daughters attest to a child-hood that mixed Garth with Amy Grant and equal portions of Cat Stevens and the Beatles.  Sad moments were soothed by repeated lines of Blackbird, just as raucous moments heading into summer camp were bammed out staccato like as Queen would become our battle cry. This did seem slightly rebellious to us – probably why the memory is all the more delicious.

I have no musical talent though surrounded by music in multiple forms.  I did take piano lessons for seven years while in grammar school.  Performing the annual recital, I memorized my pieces quickly and played with fervor and unrequested enthusiasm.  I punched the keys and just couldn’t soften my touch even with the most severe admonitions by my ever patient teacher.  “Not so hard Maida!  Gentle the keys,” my kind yet exasperated teacher would beg.  I played piano exactly like I walked.  It was one of my daughters who pointed this out to me years later that, “We don’t walk Mommy.  We march.”  I remember stopping and looking at her and realizing she was right.  My four daughters and I march to this day.  Even my husband asks me if it is possible for me to close the door softly please darling?   I guess not.  And so the large and lumpy container of unexpressed life inside me needs music to tell the story.  As a little girl I would sometimes cry as I listened to John Gary sing “Once upon a time” and then feel exhilarated as Mario Lanza’s tenor belted “drink drink drink.”  I can barely handle how I feel when in a tavern and the Cubs are playing.  Shouldn’t we all be standing on tables with steins and gusto?

When Heather, my third in line announced to me when she was 13 years old that music was 35% of her life, though I did wonder how she came up with this percentage, I never once questioned the importance.  Music is a thread we weave into the fabric of what we are doing and why we are doing it.  It is culture and tradition and identity all the while descriptive and feeling and ever changing.  It is a ritual that breeds brilliance and simplicity.  A banjo and a guitar say more about a particular type of life in the Deep South than any other form deem try. We are carried away on waves of the inexpressible and that is why each person hearing the same song feels something singular and experiential.  A small child is comforted by soft singing in her ear.  The raucous pounding of drums comforts the angst riddled teen.  The elderly man weeps at the ballad in his own tongue.  This poetry set to score gives rise to pulse and breath.  So even though the method changes and no longer is a needle lifted and set down on a plastic disc, nor is a laser sensor employed, still music helps us dream and express.  I sing to my grand-children songs that are silly and songs that tell stories, songs that give expression and songs that mean nothing at all.  Those are probably the ones they love best.  The big fat worm is fun and what a good place for music to start.


  • Maida Korte

Writer, Designer

One Response to “One Small Thing

  • Jerry Golden
    5 years ago

    Maida is always input thoughts. Our Wisconsin home which she did work, shouts her name

    Jerry Golden

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