It rained again last night. That is to be expected though, being here as we are on the West Coast of British Columbia, just long enough to pay no attention to it. It did not bring any threat, just puddles. Since moving to this new part of town, some of the roads are finished, some are not. And this is where the puddles come into play. Our part of the development was where one phase ended; and the next phase was just ruffed in. The pavement ended in front of our house. The rest of the road, well, you could use it, but the construction traffic rendered it pretty rough, leaving behind ruts and potholes. Hence the puddles.
As we finished breakfast, I noticed that the rained had just about stopped. Still too wet, my wife and I took our coffees out to the enclosed porch and watched the sun push the clouds away. That’s when I noticed Charley. Charley is our neighbours boy from across the road. I think he found the biggest puddle, and he was having a great time running through and jumping into it. Good for him that he had his rubber boots on, the thing was, that was all he was wearing.
Charley was different, and special. But not without his problems and unique needs. My wife and I and a few of the neighbours, were familiar with these needs, having lived beside them for a while. Charley and his Mom and Dad moved into town about the same time we did. In fact, they were one of our first neighbours. We noticed right away that there was something different with Charley. It was not unusual for him to be found trying to hide in his front yard, generally the result of a confrontation that could be heard by all. After a period of raised voices, resistance to his mother’s pleas, tears, on both sides, usually followed by a hug, he would be persuaded to go back inside. We would give a sigh of relief and resume our usual activities. Support not required.
With his Dad being in the armed forces, and stationed in Esquimalt, he was not always around to help when this happened. But we were, and our presence seemed to be all that was needed to ensure that no harm came to anyone. Now, to put things into perspective, Charley is a full blown teenager, and if you did not know about him, you would think that he was not too different from any other 16 year old. We were all friends with Charley. Maybe better put, he was friends with all of us. It was common place for him to show up at your door, with all his clothes on, and sometimes at mealtime, sit down at the table just like an invited guest, and partake of what was being offered. He was like that. He was always welcome. I sometimes wandered what meant more to him, the meal or the company. Though he was not likely to say much. And when he was finished, he would leave as quietly and mysteriously as he arrived. After a while we started referring to him as the mayor of Beatty Street. I think he liked that.
Bill Bradley is the new neighbour down the street. Nice fellow, volunteer fireman, member of rotary, and plays the bagpipes. Seems he was hosting a BBQ for the band next weekend in his back yard, and he invited all his neighbours, including Charley and his family. I had to really wonder though if they would come. You see, they had this thing about music in their religion. It was not allowed. The same for dancing. But the invite was out there, we would just have to wait and see.
When we wandered into Bill’s back yard, the band was already there. Eight pipers, three drummers, and this guy with a long fancy spear. The way I have seen them toss that thing about, I know now why they put him at the front. I was informed later that it was referred to as a mace. A ceremonial thing and not meant to harm anyone. Several of the pipers were warming up when they realized it would be too loud for people in the rather smallish back yard. Luckily living on the outskirts of town, they had access to a field next to the back yard. Off they went, practised several pieces, and we could still talk and be heard, and enjoy the music.
Then Charley and his family arrived. His father was able to make it and an older sister that we don’t see too often as she was away at college. The guys in the field regrouped, commenced to play a real slow tune, almost a lament that none of us payed much attention to, except Charley. He was half way across the field before most of us new it. The guys were still playing not noticing that they had a singular audience. By this time the rest of the family had walked out to join him; we just watched not really knowing what was going to transpire.
We could tell that Charley was excited with his new found discovery. But what happened next was totally unexpected. Charley was beside himself with excitement. He could not stand still. It was all that mom and dad could do to keep him in check while he danced around one of the pipers and kept pointing at the bagpipe, uttering some sounds, and every now and then pushing on the bladder so that it made a rude honk. We could see that the piper was talking to Charley, but they were too far away to be heard. Whatever was going on got Charley excited as he grabbed his Mom and Dad and pulled them along behind the pipers as they struck up a familiar march tune, and then commenced to march around the field, into the back yard, headed for the street, picking up marchers as they went.
When we got home later that evening, I asked my wife, what exactly did we witness today? Something very special happened out there. I wanted to know more.
Music has been a part of my life since I can remember. As a young boy of 7 or 8, I would sit in front of our flour model radio, ear glued to the huge speaker and take in the Saturday afternoon opera on the CBC. I couldn’t handle the whole offering, probably much to the relief of the old folks, but that is where it all started. Later in life there would be piano lessens, choirs, school bands, and many records, tapes, and CD’s. With the exception of a few categories, all music was welcomed.
Music has that ability to run your emotions from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. It can instantly flood you with tears, send shivers up and down your spine or send you to la-la land. I know, I have been there.
That thought brings me back to Charley. As I noted earlier, music was not in his home. Music therapy has been employed for many years now, being especially effective in young children. Music therapy is effective for reducing stress, common negative side effects, such as emotional and behavioural problems. And for those involved, it has had very far reaching effects, on both sides of the music.
Charley’s parents did not pursue the option. Music was not allowed in the house. Music was not in the life.
As it happened, Charley’s Father was transferred to Edmonton later that same year. We never saw the family again.
Several years later news filtered back that Charley, sadly, was into drugs, no longer living at home. That was the last bit that we heard about Charley, until one day I ran into a retired army buddy of his Dad’s. I asked him about the family, especially Charley. Charley had committed suicide.