We Became Her Choir

Lynne is the firstborn of the six siblings in my family. She took the lead on many things, including caring for us when Mom and Dad were both either at work or out of action for one tragic reason or another.

In addition to that, she was also trying to grow up during a difficult time in American history: the 1960’s. Lynne was old enough to understand what was going on around the world and within our family.

She was in her teens and couldn’t find lipstick to complement her skin color.

She saw war, assassinations, and race riots through a thirteen-channel black and white television.

She stood in the welfare food line with Mom and knew exactly why she was there and her friends were not.

Lynne endured a lot. She must have decided that if she also had to put up with the five of us, then she was going to make good use of the time.

So we became her choir.

Lynne and my oldest brother Marvin were members of their school’s Glee Club, a group of students who met to sing and perform. Lynne would teach us what they learned, and one Christmas season she taught us how to sing Do You Hear What I Hear?

Written in October of 1962, the song was a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It has a precious melody wrapped around words of hope.

Lynne worked long and hard with us, and she was serious about her goal. She loved that song. She would sing the words and then make sure we repeated them in tune, correctly and clearly. She had no sheet music. There was no need for it: Lynne, like the rest of us, could pick notes out of the air. She had memorized what she learned at Glee Club. The music poured out of her heart and straight into ours.

And the words! I traveled the journey as I sang: From the sky to the lamb to the boy to the king to the Child. The description of the star “with a tail as big as a kite” and the song “with a voice as big as the sea” made me shiver with wonder.

Lynne went beyond teaching us just the melody. Besides the echo, there was a line that sang counterpoint to the last verse of the carol. There are no words, just an “Ahhh…,” in a soft and lilting melody.

And so, we sang. We followed our leader as she waved her hands and moved us through each verse. We had no audience. Our choir made its offering to the bedroom walls.

Yet we sang our hearts out, despite the overhanging gloom that poverty brings, for our sister’s reward and the pure pleasure and escape that singing brings.

Here are the words to the song:

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see? (echo)
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see? (echo)
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear? (echo)
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear? (echo)
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea.”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know? (echo)
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know? (echo)
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”

Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say! (echo)
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say! (echo)
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light.”


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

Do You Hear What I Hear? lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker, 1962. Click here for the original recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale.


January Story of the Month: Losing Luisa

Angel did not want to give up, but the Philadelphia chill cut through deep to his bones and challenged his will to live.

Thirteen months ago, when he started the journey, emotions such as love, concern, and sympathy had been tossed aside. Never again did he want to feel the agony of loss, the knife-in-his-gut rawness that ruled his life after Luisa disappeared.

And here it was, winter again.

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Childhood Christmas Memory: Dad’s Big Surprise

Here’s one of my favorite childhood Christmas memories.


We had finished all preparations for Christmas Day: a decorated house, a trimmed tree, a Nativity scene, and a plate of cookies for Santa. The only thing left was a good night’s sleep with dreams of what we might find under the tree.

There were three bedrooms in our house: one for Mom and Dad, one for the three boys, and one for the three girls. Mom and Dad’s room was closest to the living room; then came the boys’ room; and finally, the girls’ room was in the back.

It was not easy for six Christmas-giddy kids to do, but when Mom yelled that it was time for bed, we obeyed.

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Weaving Childhood Memories into My Stories: Hair Pressing Time

School Picture Day is the annual Fall occurrence of best wear and toothy smiles in schools across the country. My school’s Picture Day happens next week, and the event is stirring up fond memories of my mother preparing her children for that day.

Other than Easter Sunday, the Lowe Kids never looked better during our elementary school grades than we did on Picture Day. Mom would make sure we were wearing our neatest and nicest. And on the evening before the day, she would “press” the girls’ hair with the hot comb and use foam curlers to set the curls overnight. When we left for school, Mom had her little girls ready to stand before the camera, with a send-off of “Don’t let that cameraman touch your hair!”

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August Story of the Month: The Long Walk Home

As I drove through one of my childhood neighborhoods, I was surprised to find Hoit Gardens only four blocks from Milpas Street, the main street on the east side of my hometown. As a child, I thought it took for-e-ver to walk to Milpas from our house.

Driving those few blocks brought back a poignant memory.

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July Has Ended and There Was No Story of the Month?

One of my monthly writing goals is to share a story with a theme that corresponds with that particular month. Well, today is July 31, and, though I tried to make the goal, you will not find a July Story of the Month posted on my website — but for a good reason!

I began my July story right after Juneteenth, imagining a newly-freed young woman and her reaction to the news. I decided to use the first name of one of my ancestors, who was born in 1845. Our family records list her without a last name.

My tentative title is “Tell Her About Freedom,” a theme in line with the Fourth of July holiday that we celebrate in the United States.

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I Met an Angry Lady at the Check-out Line Today

Happy Anniversary, Angry Lady! Five years ago this month (July 2016), I posted on my previous website an encounter I had at a grocery store that became the most popular story that I have ever shared. The story took several weeks for me to write, so the original readers received the story in three parts. Here is the full story in one post.

Fran the Angry Lady. I met her at the check-out line. We had a conversation. This is our story.

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May Story of the Month: A Mother’s Day

The United States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. That’s this weekend, and it’s a perfect theme for this month’s Story of the Month.

While researching the Great Depression (1929-1940) for one of my stories, I found this photo and it is an amazing one. The joy this woman shows, despite her poverty, is the perfect picture of motherly love.

Inspired by the photo, I imagined myself sitting with this woman to learn about her typical day.

Cotton picker with her baby, Maricopa County, Arizona, November 1940. Photo by Dorothea Lange
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April Story of the Month: I Heard the Clouds Say Something That Easter Morn

Easter Sunday, Late 1960s

The Lowe Family did not miss church on Easter Sunday.

Mom and Dad didn’t think twice about skipping it every other Sunday of the year, but attending the Easter service was a must do. It was like they figured the liveliness of Spring stirred God into bursting from his year-long patience with them. It was time to get into the pews before they felt his wrath.

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