Kristina Furey

My Heritage

It must have happened on more than one occasion because the memory is so sealed in my mind.  She took a drag off of her cigarette, hesitated, and then slowly let the smoke pour out through her 90ish lips.  She said, “I’ve been smoking these all my life.  They told me these things would kill me one day.”  Took a thoughtful look at her cigarette and said “When?  When?”  She smiled that devilish smile she sometimes had and laughed, what was no doubt, a full husky smoker’s kind of laugh and then brought the cigarette back up to her lips.  She said to me, “You’re thirteen?  Don’t run off and get married now like I did.  That’s too young.”  She would know.  Her life hadn’t been easy, a single mom, in her time.  Single moms today think they got it tough.  Women like her had it tough.  They paved the way for all us women here in the US.   A single mom trying to make a living while raising two young daughters in her time but she managed. 

We would say, “Play us a song!”  She would sit down at her piano and start playing some good old church hymns.   I would make a request for something more upbeat and jazzy or I’d say “Play Daisy.”  “Let me see, how does that one go?”  I’d start singing it and she’d come right in with the chords, often joining me in the singing.  A part of me wanted to be like her.  Her job in music and in history had a sense of romance about it.  She would play in the movie theaters.  The first day a new film would come in, she’d have her eyes watching the screen like a hulk and she’d be doing her best to accompany each scene with the proper soundtrack, having to change tunes on a dime.   It wasn’t easy and she liked to get it just right.  She never used sheet music for it.  She could read it but there was no time to be looking it up.  She relied completely on her memory and quick thinking skills as she married the music to what was happening on the screen.  It would make all the difference to the viewers that the music fit.  They may not have realized, just how particular she was at creating those moments or what went into it.  They more likely where just taking in the big picture and liked it or didn’t, without any real reference or regard for why.  It was an art to her.  A love/r.  To the average movie watcher it wasn’t highly regarded or greatly appreciated.  It was just a job.  But it’s never just a job when you love what you do.   So after a few runs with the movie, she would have a good idea of which pieces of music to use and just how much and what part of the music, best fit the scene.   

I understood as she told me about this part of her life.  I understood it with my heart, not through my head by reasoning through my own life experiences.   She was a lady who made up her own rules as she went along and made her own way.  She meant it when she asked the cigarette, “When?”  I think my great grandmother was kind of bored just sitting and watching her stories, waiting for visitors to stop by and pass some time with her and waiting for those cigarettes to kick in. 

My brother, Kevin/Trip, he had her gift.  He was exceptionally talented!  I envied how easy it came to him and I wished so much more for him and for his music, while he was alive.   Like my Great Grandmother too, he took up cigarettes at a young age.  I believe he told me he was 13 when he started smoking.   I miss him.  I have nothing of his musically to remember him by.  I wish I had something.   I have a copy of a song my Great Grandmother wrote and when my Great Grandmother died, I got her makeup case.  We great grandkids got to pick something of hers to remember her by after she passed.  I thought it was a cigarette case when I grabbed it.  I don’t smoke.  I never did.  I also waited till I was 22 to marry.  I do remember her and that’s really something because how many people get to remember their great grandparents?  I look at the makeup case every now and then and I open it up with its dried out, broken makeup inside and cracked mirror and I hope to see a little bit of her in me.   I know it’s those conversations and moments that I shared with both my Great Grandmother and my brother,  it’s those things I learned from them and keep with me, that allow me to realize they are still here with me in some capacity.  Even if I never get to hear my brother or Great Grandmother play the piano again.  Even if my Great Grandmother never winks at me when I open the compact and see the cracked mirror. 

I have posted a picture of my Grandmother’s compact on a page of the song she wrote.   I always have that one day thought, “One day, I should learn to play the song and sing it.”  Maybe a hidden track for our next CD…  (To see the compact and sheet music picture I posted go to my FB page:


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