“Music in the Wind,” Tambuli, Oct.–Nov. 1986, 1
Jan banged the hot iron down on the pillowcase and grudgingly slid it back and forth until the fabric was smooth. I’m tired of ironing pillowcases! I’m tired of ironing everything! she thought as she looked at the pile of clean but wrinkled clothes. There’s too much to do!
The relentless howling of the fierce wind outside was interrupted only by the rhythmic sound of Jan’s iron thumping the ironing board. She glanced out the window at the raging blizzard and shivered. I wish I weren’t the oldest daughter. Then I wouldn’t have to do all the work while Mom’s sick.
Just an hour ago her mother had said, “When you’re finished with the ironing, dear, come to my room and we’ll decide what to prepare for dinner.”
Jan groaned to herself just thinking about dinner and dirty dishes. Why does it have to be me? It isn’t fair! Tears filled her eyes, and her long brown hair brushed her pale cheeks as she smoothed the pillowcase with her hand, folded it neatly, and added it to the growing pile of finished ironing. She thought of her mother resting in bed and the other four children playing quietly elsewhere in the house. The storm seemed to put a hush over everyone, as if they were just silently passing time until it was over.
Later, with a sigh of relief, Jan picked up the last item to iron—one of Dad’s handkerchiefs. I know Mom can’t help having to stay in bed so she won’t lose the baby, she reasoned as she ironed. I can tell she’s trying to act cheerful, but I know she’s pretty worried. And when Dad looks at her, he seems worried too.
Looking outside, Jan could see that the storm was getting worse. The wind shrieked louder and tore at the house, adding more gloom to her mood. Suddenly the laundry room light flickered and went out. It was still early enough so that, despite the storm, the snow reflected plenty of light through the window.
Jan became aware of a faint, musical sound. Where’s that coming from? she wondered. It can’t be the radio, because the power’s off. She moved to the doorway and listened.
“It’s really beautiful!” she whispered, still listening. She began to walk from room to room, following the flutelike sound and trying to discover where it was coming from. She wondered who could be playing it. No one in the family played the flute. The haunting sound was peaceful, smooth. It stopped, then started again, faded, then rose again.
Still following the sound, Jan came to the door of her own room! What’s going on? she wondered. The door was slightly open. Her ear tuned to the clear, gentle sound; she quietly entered. The reflection of the white snow swirling and drifting outside her window brightened the pinks and whites of her room. She followed the sound—louder now—to the window. Afraid of disturbing whatever was making the unusual music, she very cautiously reached up and moved the white, frothy curtain aside.
“Well, what do you know!” Jan exclaimed. The music she heard was being made naturally, and simply, by the raging wind! The wind was blowing so hard against her window that the air being forced through the cracks was making a delightful tune.
Jan stood there in awe, gazing at the window and the bright, drifting snow. Then, interrupting her reverie, she turned and ran to her mother’s room. Delighted to find her mother awake, Jan excitedly told her of her discovery.
Mother’s dark eyes sparkled, and her tired mouth widened into a smile. She lifted her hand for Jan to take. “Show me!” she said with excitement.
Jan supported her mother as they went to Jan’s room and quietly lay side by side on her bed. The only sound was the music of the wind.
“It’s lovely!” her mother whispered.
After listening in silence for a few more minutes, Jan said, “I’d really be scared to be out there in that blizzard all alone!”
“Yes, so would I,” agreed her mother. “But isn’t it wonderful how that wild storm can whistle through a tiny crack and provide us with such an unusual musical treat?”
“Yes.” Forgetting her fear, Jan snuggled closer and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. Her thoughts drifted back to earlier in the afternoon. It had seemed like the end of the world then. But maybe things weren’t so bad after all. A feeling of peace and well-being swelled within her.
“Jan?” Her mother’s voice broke the silence. “With the power off, what shall we do for dinner?”
Jan giggled. “Well, I think we have enough stew left over from last night. I’ll put it in the pan and warm it up in the fireplace. Then we can sit around the fire and eat like the pioneers did!”
“Like the pioneers!” her mother echoed.
Jan remembered the peace and contentment she’d felt when she’d heard the music in the wind. She knew her life was a lot easier than that of the pioneers. She smiled and went to get the dinner ready.