Skip to content

A Song Stopped in Time

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of recording a reading by guest contributor Lara Dotson-Renta. She submitted this heartbreakingly beautiful piece about bearing witness to her elderly neighbor, who’d been tenderly caring for his wife in her final days. Lara opens her piece by describing the music that she’d come to associate with her neighbors:

“Every night the piano plays a jaunty tune next door. It is usually the piano’s keys dancing in turn, but sometimes it is a record from the ’50s, a swaying, big-band sort of music that somehow brings our little corner of the neighborhood back several decades to when these homes were built, and a marriage was just beginning. Time rewinds and restarts with each change in key.

I stop and sit each time, pulled to the window. I pause to listen and imagine the scene as the music sweeps into each corner of their home — over the graying couch in the sitting room, over the mounted family photos, over the beautiful open Bible on a wooden stand. Our elderly neighbor plays faithfully, the notes an affirmation of presence, a victory of joy, a connection maintained.”

You can hear just hear the music drifting down the hall and into its own space, a gentle assertion of this loving couple’s enduring presence. It was a very specific kind of music, and though it took a bit of hunting to find it, I finally came across this particular rendition of the jazz classic, “If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight,” performed by the legendary Count Basie and Helen Humes:

It was a perfect fit, a performance so firmly rooted in its time that it immediately transports one back to that era, and to Lara’s neighbors’ youth. The lo-fi quality is nostalgic and warm, like listening to an old record playing on a gramophone. And Basie’s tinkling piano wafts in with just the right air of tender hopefulness. Humes’s vocals join in at just the right moment, and the lyrics she sings are so wonderfully fitting, evocative of the longing to remain with one’s beloved for just a little longer:

If I could be with you one hour tonight
If I were free to do all the things I might
I want you to know that I wouldn’t go
Until I told you that I love you so
If I could be with you I’d love you long
To be with you I’d love you oh, so strong
I’m tellin’ you true that you’d never be blue
If I could be with you one hour
If I could be with you…

Share your reflection