Many of us modified our behavior in 2020 by electronically introducing ourselves to strangers and reaffirming our longer relationships, as we sought new ways for dealing with isolation and restrictive agenda.

During one idea sharing conversation, I disclosed that music adds brightness to my days, as I loudly sing rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and C & W, – – – ‘moldy oldies’ from the ‘groove-yard.’

But it is classical music that has been my longest companion for entertainment and calmness. I had shared some of that history in my third book, I Wish you Had Been There.

I promised this repeat:

The Sounds and the Music

On Monday, my mother walked more than two miles to work. On Tuesday it rained, so Miss Virginia Howell, my mother’s employer, gave her a ride home.  When the car stopped at our door, I rushed to greet both ladies; to welcome my mother home, and to answer Miss Virginia’s questions. “How are you James Edward, and what have you been doing?”  Her interest was not pretense.  Both she and her husband always asked the same questions, and then carefully listened to my answers.  My response was tentative: “Miss Virginia, I heard some very pretty music on the radio on Sunday.”  It was 1946; I was 12 years old, and our house was now wired for electricity. Our new entertainment included the radio programs Lum and Abner, The Great Gildersleeve, Burns & Allen, The Lone Ranger, Fibber McGee & Molly, and The Romance of Helen Trent. After church services on Sunday, the offerings included The Shadow, Nick Carter, Master Detective, The FBI in Peace and War, Mr. District Attorney, and another program where I heard beautiful music. Miss Virginia continued her inquiry: “What was the name of the program and what did the music sound like James Edward?”  “I don’t know the name of the program, all I remember is that it was something about a watch, over, and the color tan.” We waved goodbye.

Friday afternoon was sunny. When my teacher rang the hand-held bell to signal the end of the school-week, I routinely rushed to the path which guided me home. But on this Friday Miss Virginia’s car blocked my route. She was smiling, and she even opened the front door of her car and offered me a ride to her home. When we arrived, she told me to get a package from the rear seat. Both my mother and I wondered about Miss Virginia’s purpose. She sensed our confusion and promptly asked me to repeat my description of the program where I heard the beautiful music on Sunday. My mental notes were the same: Something about a watch, over, and tan.  She then asked me to open the package, which contained a stack of carefully wrapped heavy records. Miss Virginia then said, “Now James Edward, I hope I did this right, because your face showed such delight as you mentioned the music, so here’s what I did.”  Miss Virginia was a White schoolteacher, with access to the library and other places for research. Her instincts led her to the local radio station, WGOV, where she examined the program log for Sunday. She then made some guesses. The only program on which a watch was repeatedly mentioned was The Wittnauer-Longines Symphonette, and on the previous Sunday, the only selection which sounded like over and tan was Richard Wagner’s Overture to Tannhauser.  My friend positioned me to crank the Victrola record player. As my small arm rotated, the turntable revolved at 78 revolutions per minute (78 rpm’s). Then she gently lifted the metal arm which held a needle the size of a small nail. When she lowered the needle into the wide grooves the sound of The Pilgrims Chorus vibrated from the speaker and touched me as deeply as her loving gesture. She held my hand, and we both cried.

Second story below

Perfect Is Good Enough

On a day when perfection was … good enough 

During my childhood, Valdosta had two colleges: Emory Junior College at Valdosta, and Georgia State Women’s College.  Every college town should have a College Street. College Street was where Mrs. Whittington lived.  She also was the owner of the most expensive store for women in the city.  Women with money kept her in business; I kept her yard clean.

Cleaning yards was most exhilarating during mid-autumn, when golden leaves sprinkled like a carpet at the feet of deciduous trees.  Add to this pleasant ambiance the crackling and raspy sounds of a rake rustling the foliage into neat piles. 

My routine was to clean a series of smaller sections of the yard rather than pushing the leaves into large heaps.  Completing smaller areas gave me more opportunities of purpose and achievement. Besides, smaller bundles of leaves were easier to collect and transport to the big trash bin near the garage.

On one autumn day the weather was so warm as to encourage open windows throughout the house. That is what a visitor to the Whittington home did.  He then adjusted his stool at the piano and promptly sent an enchanting melody through the fluttering curtains into the yard.  I stopped raking. The pianist noticed that I was now more interested in his playing than gathering leaves, so he stopped playing, approached the window, and asked if I wanted to hear a particular tune.  My request was that he continue playing the same piece.  He then offered, “I’m going to play something special, and I’ll dedicate it to a boy who is raking leaves.”  Then he added: “Ludwig won’t mind.”

For the next few minutes, I sat in a pile of leaves and heard sounds that induced an imaginary vision of heaven.  I imagined that the pen of the person who wrote such music must have been guided by the hand of God.

Shortly after he finished, he greeted me in the yard and asked, “Well, how did you like the selection?” 

I simply nodded and said, “Yes sir, perfect is good enough.” 

He then gave me a note that introduced me to new sounds and a new vocabulary.  It read: “Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Sonata, The Appassionata.”

Good Memories

Good memories are treasures that we horde for ourselves.

Sometimes they are the only currency that can buy peace of mind.

They give us safe passage to where we were once content.

Good memories are not exhausted by time.

You have my permission to share this story with your friends.

 To read a past story, see Story of the Month at


James Edward Alexander

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