“Hey Danielle,” he said, smiling up at me with that cheeky grin. I swear if that grin ever disappears because he’s too old or cool, it might just break my heart. And those freckles? Goodness, he may only be eleven but he’s going to break a pile of hearts someday.
“Hey bud, what’s new?”
“I got an MP3 player.”
“That’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah, it’s my first one.”
I smiled inwardly, thinking back to when I first fell in love with music. My first MP3 player actually belonged to my mother, but I would sneak it into my bedroom and listen to her workout playlist (the only music she kept on it) when I was supposed to be sleeping but couldn’t remember how. Eventually when I reached my young teens, she gave the thing to me and I began discovering some of what would become my all-time favorite stuff: Jack Jonhson’s lullabies, Frankie Valley and his four seasons, Acapella’s soulful worship, and the soundtracks my father used to put on CD’s for me when I was little. I explored, no longer nervous of being caught with the contraband of stolen music.
“I thought maybe you could take it.” He produced the shiny little blue device seemingly from midair and slipped it into my palm.
We were sitting in the backseats of the family truck, on our way to some now-forgotten event, and I realized that this conversation was not an idle eleven-year old’s way of passing the time - it was premeditated.
But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a gift, so what did he intend for me to do with it? What had I missed?
He glanced at me furtively as another sibling climbed into the vehicle.
“Um, you want me to…” I hoped he would finish the sentence but he kept quiet. “Oh, want me to load it up for you?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he shrugged, playing it cool.
“Cool. Like some acapella stuff? Or something more exciting for swim meets?”
“Or that thing we talked about… If you want?”
He glanced back at the sibling who had just joined us, another big sister, and it suddenly dawned on me. He had asked me ages ago to make him a new CD of Hamilton music since his previous CD had gone missing. I’d forgotten (for the space of a couple of months) and he’d taken matters into his own hands by buying an MP3 player just so he could listen to Hamilton. Recalling how had reminded me at least once or twice, a pang of guilt constricted my chest.
It’s hard sometimes – being the sister he only sees on the weekends at best.
His furtive glances at our other sister made sense now too. She didn’t exactly approve of our shared love of Hamilton. It’s a fair enough stance, the songs I don’t listen to have some foul language in them that’s unfit for eleven-year-old ears. But then again, our mother is okay with the clean songs and with the couple of clean versions of songs I found edited on youtube and she is the mom, so it wasn’t against the rules.
Still, it concerned his little mind so I played right along.
“Oh, gotcha,” I said, slipping the device (and charging cable he thought might be necessary) into my pocket. “I’ll get it back to you soon.”
“Thanks,” he said, buckling in as we back out of the driveway.
“What are you guys talkin’ about?” the sister on the end of the row asked.
“Nothing,” Eli and I said in unison.
After a few miles he leaned over and whispered,
“You won’t forget?”
“Don’t worry,” I whispered back. “I’m not throwing away my shot on this one.”
That response accomplished what I’d hoped, earning me another grin.
Sitting here now, hundreds of miles away, it makes me a bit tearful to think that I get to be his big sister. That I am allowed the honor and responsibility of helping to mold his little mind and his tastes, that I get to know this amazing person and watch him grow, that we get to share in this great big scary wonderful world together.
The music he wanted me to load on his player was the clean (or cleaned-up) songs from the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s a beautiful and thrilling retelling of a true story – and the voice talents and story line are heart-breakingly amazing. It’s the sort of written thing I can’t even be envious of, I’m just grateful to live in a time where it exists and I can be a part of it by listening. Hamilton is a play about a man obsessed with the legacy he leaves behind. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? is a line oft repeated.
I’m not sure if anyone will tell my story, but I’m not sure that really matters. I think the legacy of a simple, faithful life spent for the Lord and lived alongside cheeky grins and contraband music is enough.
At least, it is for me.