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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Singing (10/31/05)

TITLE: The Old Hymnbook
By Debbie Roppolo


“Mommy. What are we doing up here?” Seth asked, batting at the cobwebs.
“What?” I asked absently. I was visiting my mother’s home and felt compelled to explore the attic. “Just being nosy I guess.”
“Well, everything is so . . . dusty,” Seth complained, sneezing loudly.
“Hmm.” I replied. A large box had captured my attention. Carefully, I maneuvered my way around containers of forgotten Christmas ornaments, and trunks of clothes from days gone by. I don’t remember this box being here, I thought. Almost reverently, I knelt in front of it and wiped off the dust.
“ I’m bored!” Seth’s pre-teen temper tantrum was wearing on my nerves.
“Look around here,” I said evenly. “I’m positive that there is something up here that will keep you entertained.”
“There’s nothing that . . .oh, wait. Here are some old cars in a box. Never mind.”
Now, where was I, I thought. Carefully, I lifted the lid off the box; inside were treasures from my youth. Nestled between two high school letter jackets was my one and only “first place” barrel racing trophy. I held it against my face, enjoying the coolness of the metal against my cheek, before laying it aside. What else is there in here, I mused, digging to the bottom of the box. My fingers brushed against something flat and hard.
I grasped the item and pulled it out from under the tangle of mementoes. It was an old hymnbook. My hands trembling, I opened the cover slowly, careful not to damage the ancient binding. Inside the front cover, in spidery handwriting, was the words “property of Esmarelda”; it was my grandmother’s book. A flood of memories washed over me as I clutched that old book to my chest, but one in particular stood out.
One winter, when I was ten, I had a severe bout of bronchitis. To add insult to injury, my mother was going to the store, and was leaving me with my grandmother. “I don’t need a babysitter,” I pouted. “Just let me go to the store with you.”
“No,” Mother said firmly. “I’m taking you to Granny’s house while I run errands.” I pouted all the way to my grandmother’s house, and sat pouting in her sunroom after my mother left. A little later, Granny walked in carrying a book.
“Here,” she said, thrusting the book at me. I was annoyed she interrupted my pity party.
“What’s this?” I asked. She laughed softly and held the book closer to me.
“Why don’t you take it and tell me what it is?” Grudgingly, I took the small hardbound book and glanced at the cover.
“It’s a hymn book. What do you want me to do with it?” Granny’s eyes twinkled like sapphires as she gazed at me mischievously.
“Why, sing of course.” I stared at her in disbelief. I, like the majority of my family, was very musically inclined, but instruments, not vocals were my strong point. I handed the book back and shook my head.
“I can’t sing.”
Granny looked confused. “Why not?”
I began ticking off the reasons on my fingers. “First of all, my voice sounds horrible, second of all, I have bronchitis. Remember?”
Granny laughed jovially, then began ticking her own reasons off on her fingers. “First of all,” she said seriously, “God doesn’t care what you sound like as long as you are praising him. She opened the book and turned to the page she wanted. “Here,” she said, handing the book back to me. “Sing this. It’s my favorite.” I took the book and smiled; the song was Amazing Grace, one of my favorites as well. That day, Granny and I raised the roof with our singing.
Several years later, Granny was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She rarely talked, let alone sing. On a visit, I brought that old hymnbook with me. Nervously I opened the book and sang her favorite hymn. Halfway through the song, I saw tears in her eyes.
“We really raised the roof with our singing, didn’t we?” she asked. I nodded, tears streaming down my face as well.
After Granny died, I packed the book away and forgot about it. Now, I carefully opened the book to Amazing Grace. “Sing with me.” I told Seth.
“I can’t sing,” he replied.
“It doesn’t matter what you sound like, just as long as you praise God,’ I said. Together, Seth and I filled the attic with our singing. In Heaven, Granny was listening, and smiling.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Val Clark11/08/05
Lovely feel to this story. Love the way you start with mother and son and return to mother and son through the episode with the grandmother. Hard to tell if it's fiction or autobiography! (Just an editing thing, if you have a ? at the end of dialogue you don’t need to say asked. Same if the intent of the dialogue is clear, ie Seth complained) :-) Yeggy.
Mary Lang11/09/05
You made a great connection between you as a young person and your son around the same age. A nice touch was that you let us know the characters through dialoge, not narrative.
Hope Horner11/10/05
Great point and an enjoyable read! Maybe a little too mellow-dramatic in parts (i.e. "My hands trembling"- Over a hymnal??) And "I held it to my cheek" - would you really hold a dusty old trophy to your cheek? I get your point that they were treasured items, just seemed a bit overstated at times.
Great message though and thanks for sharing.