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Linda H. Feinberg


Manchester, NH, US

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song for Belle


Linda H. Feinberg

if I could, I would write a symphony for my mother
and all the women who came to this country as immigrants
or the children of poor immigrants
the women who worked in the sweatshops and stores
to make a better life for their families

I would put in klezmer music with clarinets for my mother,
recalling the mazinka dance at my first wedding,
my parents sitting in chairs, everyone dancing around them,
celebrating the marriage of the youngest daughter

I would portray Aunt Bess in the first movement
with a few strains from the song "Margie"
the left hand going up and down,

boom chink, boom chink,
the right hand playing the melody;
Aunt Bess, with smiles and hugs,
carrot juice and health foods,
her warmth is always remembered

a minor key would introduce my father's Aunt Rose,
a spinster from Russia who never married
because her parents didn't approve of her choice;
then I would change the tune to include

bay mir bistu sheyn --
I was always her shayna maidele

for Mrs. Monskie and Helen,
(and Miss Jablonski, my eighth grade math teacher),
I would have to find a Polish melody
I never knew until I learned in college history classes
about the hatred between the Poles and the Jews;
I thought everyone was like the people I knew,
kind and compassionate,
taking care of their families, taking care of me,
with Christmas cookies and Thanksgiving goodies

to represent my children
I would include a passage played

con spiritu
for they are the future
bursting with energy

if I am a note in the piece,
I am the quiet note at the end of the slow movement,
the one played pianissimo,
the one barely heard,
because I prefer to be in the background,
observing and listening,
quietly making a difference

my symphony would include
all the ethnic pieces heard in my childhood,
from spirituals on the radio
to folk songs of all cultures,
ending with the uplifting classical music
I learned as a young piano student
for they are all a part of me
and of my mother

if I could, I would write a symphony for my mother
so my children could hear of her life
and know that every day struggles
build strength of character
and a heritage of stories
to pass on to the next generation