|Sun, Mar 09, 2014 11:52 PM
November 20, 2013 | 09:57 AM
I just received a Thanksgiving lesson from an unexpected place. As I was running about my house lamenting that I had committed to doing too many things, I heard the following words coming from my CD player:
I see trees of green … red roses, too
I see them bloom … for me and for you
And I think to myself … what a wonderful world.
It was the unique and semi-raspy voice of the renowned jazz singer Louis Armstrong, one of the most influential and loved musicians of all time. Born in 1901, he became the first African-American jazz musician to host a nationally sponsored radio show, to be featured billing in a major Hollywood movie and to count famous folks as friends and colleagues. I thought, no wonder he thinks it is "a wonderful world."
I realized that I needed to change my stressed attitude and sing along with him. Since I wasn't sure of the exact words of the song, I googled "Louis Armstrong" on my computer. Here is what I found about the life of the man in "a wonderful world":
He was born in New Orleans in a section so poor that it was nicknamed "The Battlefield." His father abandoned the family to live in poverty, so his mother often had to turn to prostitution. He quit school in the fifth grade to work collecting junk and delivering coal. He was arrested when he was 11 years old for firing a gun in the air on New Year's Eve and was sent to the Colored Waif's Home for Boys. Here, he was given a cornet and fell in love with music. Released at age 13, he again hauled coal and sold newspapers to support himself. He married at 17, had a stormy relationship, adopted a mentally-disabled child and all the while grew in his popularity as a jazz artist. He was like most black jazz musicians at that time; they worked as manual laborers during the day, played in white men's clubs in the evening and jammed with other black musicians in a "hole in the wall" after hours.
I have African-American friends who tell me of those years in their lives and how driven they were against all odds and with little support to work and play their music in Indiana.
We have all had down times in our lives: difficulties with employment, illness, disappointments in family relations, setbacks in school and the loss of loved ones. I was quite lonely after my husband died and sometimes found it difficult to see that it was indeed "a wonderful world."
Thanksgiving is on the horizon and I, like most of you, plan to sit down and overeat with family and friends in a comfortable setting. This is a special time for me as I am planning to be married the day after the big feast. All of my soon-to-be husband's family will be joining my family at our farm for a memorable Thanksgiving holiday and a wedding ceremony.
Life has not always been easy for my new partner, Don Willsey. But he always finds the positive and happy side of everything and he has opened my eyes to a more grateful way of looking at each day. During the combining of our houses, wading through prenuptial agreements and getting to know each other's children and grandchildren, he has shown me that there is much to be happy for.
It would be so easy to be overwhelmed by the logistics rather than the love of the occasion. This is not just the joining of two elderly people who were widowed, but the uniting of two families. Both families are comprised of people of goodwill but people who sometimes have busy schedules, poor health, confused relationships and differing attitudes about life. Adjusting to others' habits and views provides many opportunities for misunderstanding, to say the least.
That first Thanksgiving Day among the Pilgrims was based upon survival after a hopeful but harsh first few years as a colony. Your Thanksgiving this year will probably be a similar mix of happy and hectic events. Life is not easy and not always a piece of "wedding cake." The religious-based holidays remind us that it is indeed "a wonderful world" because we are not alone on this planet; we have a loving God and we have each other.
My fiancé Don had already downsized his house due to adverse health, age and the death of his wife of 53 years. Thus, I was amazed to discover a whole lot of treasured holiday decorations carefully stored in the basement. It seems we humans cling to happy holiday memories and the hope that these decorations provide. Yes, there are trials, but there are joys that cause us all to sing, "It's a wonderful world."