People are a garden. Sometimes things just go together right and you get many plants blooming at once. Like a garden there is the scheming. It is necessary to notice moments when the yellow Four O’clocks and the Purple Cone Flower are out together and from there move things around to make it work better. It takes noticing what is off. It takes coaxing and effort. This story is about one of those beautiful moments with people. and a we bit of coaxing.
When we bought our house on Regent Street in 1996 we allowed ourselves a month to move everything, including some plants from our old garden. The first night in the new home we packed only the TV set, some movies, some blankets and some snacks. We then spent the night exploring the rooms and looking for things the original owners would have missed. We ran and yelled through the echoey emptiness and introduced ourselves to the rawness of this beautiful home. The next day began our progressive move and we retrieved beds and essentials to start filling the space. This work was done as a family with occasional help from a worker. I used my diesel garden tractor and a trailer. People in the neighbourhood would have seen a fridge go by and a trailer full of plants. It was quite difficult actually but I could not see myself affording a mover. The new house was only 6 blocks away from the old so it was not so bad.
Towards the end of the month there were still a few larger items to get. The one I could not do on my own was the upright piano. Giving in out of need I booked a local mover, Swan Moving and Storage, and arranged for the piano to be picked up. When they got there they suggested I get them to move the rest of the heavy furniture as my quoted price was for four hours and they could easily get all of it in in that time. Of course this was most agreeable. Here really is where the sweet memory begins, while the men were moving the piano. There were four of them to do the work. They gathered around the piano and then called out. “One, two three…lift.” My ears listened and each time they did it there was a disappointment because something was not finished. I could imagine the rest. Vikings rowing boats and crusaders marching came to mind. When all was packed up from the old house I teased them about their unfinished song. Breakfast would be on me if they would have the decency to finish the song as they brought the piano in. To my surprise they agreed.
The new house is on top of a hill. Though the movers would not have to bring the piano up all of this house’s stairs it is important to note there are 72. There was another difference to this house. For sound it is like having the best seats in an amphitheater. Downtown Guelph is 4-6 blocks away and yet we can hear so many of the sounds that come from there. Skateboarders’ wheels scratching on the pavement, trucks idling and people at the bar laughing. People who walk up the hill in front of our place can be clearly heard as they whisper to each other. It is so precise how the sound carries. In fact, on one of the three nights I have ever been drunk since married, I was walking home from a Christmas party with some of Jordan’s friends. I phoned Sandra to tell her that I was coming and that I was going to make these friends peanut butter and pineapple sandwiches, a delicacy I had just concocted. Sandra asked why I had phoned since she could hear me discussing everything ever since we started our walk home. I guess for once I was loud. The point is that this house has marvelous acoustics.
When the movers got around to the front stage of the house they had to lift and drop up on each step to the front porch. I know I should remember the words to their chant and be able to describe it better but all those details escape me. It was so beautiful the tones of the words. These four men, in perfect harmony and as loud as was necessary belted out a chant at each stair. The chant that began and ended as it should. It was amazing to see these men enjoyed it too and put their whole heart into it. It is doubtful if there was a more beautiful sound echoing over the hill since that day. How do you describe the hum of it, how each note lingered and seemed to have the power to help lift the piano? It was surreal really and I wished I had the foresight to tape it. That is the point though I suppose. Memories like this that arise out of the seemingly mundane. The memory of building up the nerve to ask, of being almost embarrassed at the beauty, like I should turn my head, and the memory of the breakfast with four burly men and myself. It simply is a memory and each time I think of it it cheers me and makes me think of heaven. Why? …Who knows.