1: Miracle at the Maple Street Jam

1: Miracle at the Maple Street Jam

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Miracle at the Maple Street Jam

Angels deliver Fate to our doorstep—and anywhere else it is needed.

~Jessi Lane Adams

I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas. The past year had been a downer. I hadn’t counted on missing my mother so much. Often, I’d driven by her apartment building on my nursing rounds, thinking I would run in for a quick coffee. Then I would remember—no more coffee perking, no cookies, no Swedish coffee cake, no Mom.

She left too soon. One day, she wound up in emergency for a “little sore on my leg,” as she put it. Within twelve days, she was dead from a widespread infection that couldn’t be stopped. The tough lady I knew was no match for necrotizing fasciitis.

I ached for her. She seldom left my mind. The day she died, I started writing songs. That was a year and three hundred songs ago. Memories of her live in everything I write.

We sang her to Heaven in the hospital room with “Angels Watch O’er Me,” a song I penned while I mopped her fevered brow. How could I drum up Christmas spirit this year? I didn’t think I could.

“Hi, Gloria! Coming out tonight?” It was one of my band mates.

I had forgotten. Wednesday—jam night. Bluegrassers from the town gathered for a night of music, or “jamming,” coffee and treats at the community hall on Maple Street. It was usually a fun time for me.

“Nah—I’ve got a lot of paperwork, and it’s going to take me a while,” I said.

Paperwork? Where’d that come from? I had no paperwork. Actually, I wanted to put up my little Christmas village. I had bought some new pieces, and my granddaughter would be looking for it.

“Aw, come on. It’s the last one before Christmas.”

Jeez, she got whiny sometimes. Couldn’t she tell I just wanted to have my own little pity party tonight?

“Besides, it’s your turn to pick up Isabelle,” my band mate said.

Isabelle. I couldn’t disappoint her. I loved this woman. She was an elderly blind lady we met at a concert a few years back. Attended everything we put on. She was our best ambassador—and she made fantastic hermit cookies.

Isabelle had no family that we knew of, and couldn’t drive, so she depended on the Bluegrass Guild members to bring her to the jams. She sang and played guitar too.

“I’ll phone her and pick her up,” I said.

Maybe the jam would pull me out of this funk. Grabbing my mandolin and my autoharp, I headed out. The Christmas village would have to wait.

The aroma of coffee greeted me, and made me miss my mother again. People rose to help Isabelle to her seat.

“Coffee, Isabelle?” someone asked her.

“No, maybe later,” she answered. “Let’s sing. Key of G, ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Blues.’ ” It sure didn’t take her long to unpack and tune up.

When coffee time rolled around, I hated to stop. It was one of those rare nights when everyone was clicking. The music was top notch, everyone playing his or her best.

As we prepared to go back to jamming, a stranger came in, carrying a guitar. She looked a bit lost, so I went over to greet her. I remembered my first time there, same feeling.

“Come on in—I’m Gloria. Have a seat. Still lots of coffee.”

“Thanks. I’m just in town for a conference tomorrow at your hospital. I saw the jam notice in the paper. Mind if I join you? I’m Violet, by the way.”

“Not at all. We’re just getting ready to start up again. Love to hear you play, Violet.” Her pale face was lined and tired, eyes sad. This woman had a story.

I worked at the hospital. I knew the conference had something to do with development of a new treatment centre. Maybe she was a presenter.

“Oh, I’m not that good. I just like playing along,” Violet said. “Mmm. This coffee’s good.”

With that, she sat down across from Isabelle and me, as the banjo signaled the beginning of “Katy Daley.”

Violet played a mean guitar, but she seemed distracted by Isabelle. It was not unusual. People stared at Isabelle when they first saw her. Her eyes were continually wandering upwards. She sometimes wore dark glasses, but tonight she had chosen not to.

I finished “Dream of a Miner’s Child” with harmony and backup from my band mates. Isabelle stood up. In a soft voice, she began singing “Silent Night.” We played along in the background, but I noticed that Violet had put her guitar down to search for something. Probably a Kleenex, because tears streamed down her face. The old carol must have hit the same nerve as me, especially as sung by Isabelle, hauntingly beautiful. Music moved some people that way.

As the carol ended, Violet got up and walked over. She took Isabelle’s hand. The room fell silent. People gaped, including me.

“Mom?”

“Violet? Is that you? My girl?” The two fell into each other’s arms, sobbing openly.

By the end of the evening, we were treated to a duet from Violet and Isabelle, and a heartrending story of how and why they had drifted apart. Violet was on the road, speaking to organizations about her life as a former drug addict.

Isabelle didn’t say too much. She did tell us she always prayed Violet was all right.

It was the best jam ever, and I am glad I didn’t miss it. My mother was still on my mind, but the events of the evening did much to dull the sorrow I had felt earlier.

The music was good, Isabelle’s cookies were delicious, and we were witnesses to a miraculous reunion on Maple Street. To this day, I think angels had something to do with it.

~Gloria Jean Hansen

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