by Donna Surgenor Reames

The most beautiful moments of my life come when no one else is looking. When they happen, I almost always am surprised, as if God or some benevolent angel has played a kind trick on me, just to see if I'm watching, just to see if I'm aware.

Yesterday I had just such a moment. I'm a psych R.N., and I work weekends, long 12-hour night shifts that stretch out forever in the minds of my three lively youngsters: Zoe, Chloe and Caroline. So I try hard to make weekend mornings special times for me and my three girls to share. I'm trying to make memories for them, and for me, for when they've grown up and moved away and I no longer have to worry about signing homework sheets or finding enough magnets to hang their artwork all over the fridge.

We were so hectic yesterday. Zoe had a friend over, Brittany, and we were trying to head to the beach. Before we could get there, Zoe lost her red CD player and that set up a crisis. She didn't want to go to the beach without it and she didn't want to stay home, either. Piled in the car, on our way to we-didn't-know-where, it started to rain. We shifted gears and decided to go to Barnes & Noble, a local bookstore.

Once there, my girls headed straight for the music section. I followed them to a row of funky pale wood chairs seated in front of music discs and headphone sets. Zoe and Brittany, 10, selected Beyonce and Cristina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and the Backstreet Boys. Chloe, seven, was soon rocking away to a bright and lively kids' version of Beatles tunes.

But it was my baby, Caroline, who caught and held my heart this time around. Slender as a reed, with wispy blonde hair that flies about her narrow, heart-shaped face, she has filled our hearts and home with her sweet, open spirit since the day she was born five years ago. She loves everything and everybody but her particular love is music. I handed her a headset and offered some suggestions: Sesame Street tunes, Britney Spears (ugh, but she likes her), soundtracks from recent kid movies. But she pointed insistently to only one selection: a violinist's rendition of one of Bach's concertos.

I stared, surprised. "Are you sure, Caroline?" I asked her, wondering at her choice. She nodded and grinned. I adjusted her headset and pushed the buttons to let her selection play.

And that is when the wonder washed over me.

My little daughter closed her eyes, sat up very still and straight, and listened to the beautiful music flowing generations and generations down from Bach's pen to her ears. She picked up one small hand and began to dip it in time to the notes echoing in her ears. I watched, speechless, as she slowly slid out of her seat and started moving, swaying to the music. Eyes still closed, she twirled, bowed low, raised up on her tiptoes, with a slight smile touching her lips. She was lost, caught up in a world of melody and harmony she'd never known before, and soon it wasn't just her mother watching.

Several shoppers stopped, staring at my Caroline. I felt like crying. She was so enthralled, she didn't even notice people were watching.

Finally, as the last bit of music ebbed away, she opened her eyes. "Ahhh, Mommy," she breathed, dark eyes shining with a light of wonder, "now THAT was music!"

I took her into my eyes, smiling, and held her tight. I thought of the many years of infertility before she and her sisters came along. I thought of the hectic morning we'd just had, when every nerve seemed stretched too tight, and I felt myself relax into a peacefulness I'd forgotten I could feel.

"You're absolutely right, honey," I said, kissing the top of her head, "that really is music."

We walked out of the store and as I drove my little group of girls home, my own heart sang with a lilt that I wished Bach could have heard. I think he might have called it "Mom's Concerto."

Donna Surgenor Reames is a psychiatric registered nurse and freelance writer, planning to begin studies for her master's degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in fall of 2004. She likes nursing and writing, but her most important vocation is mothering her three lively, lovely daughters: Zoe, Chloe and Caroline.
Contact Donna Surgenor Reames