In Her Image

In Her Image
by Andrea DiMaggio

Paul Graziano stood a few feet away from his sister; the sounds that their voices produced were heavenly, some said. He enjoyed singing harmony to her melody, which was as it should be. A lovely soprano and an alto that complemented every note she sang. But the times where he was called upon to sing tenor were frustrating; not musically, since he had a lovely voice….lovely. That was the problem. He resisted the urge to lower his head and smiled as the congregation sang along. It wasn’t the soprano he envied …it was the persona that accompanied the music.

Ingrid turned to her brother and smiled; feeling as close as any sister could, she noticed the look on his face; not quite sad, but enough to reveal the hidden emotion that no one else could see. She half-frowned back at him; a look that said, ‘I know... I care… and it will be okay.’ That connection that only twins can have? As the worship leader concluded the singing, she stepped closer to him but he hurried off the platform and fled to the men’s room, hoping desperately no one would hear his weeping… Paul….Paula felt abandoned and alone in the midst of people who loved her even if they didn’t know she existed.

“There’s a song I’d like you to think about singing, Paul,” Archie said with a brief nod. His gesture usually meant that he’d made his mind up; the worship leader is supposed to lead, after all. Paul put his head down slightly; almost in submission somehow. Archie wasn’t persistent, but he was confident in his assessment of Paul’s gift. Ingrid usually eclipsed her brother in attention; it wasn’t her intention to gain glory. She just wanted to glorify God, and her own gift did just that. As humble as anyone you might meet, she practically ran from attention. Paul didn’t want attention either. Far from it, he wished in a way that he had never been given his gift. To whom much is given, much is required, aye?

“I know you’ll do a fine job.” Archie said, but he quickly corrected himself.

“Nope…sorry, Paul. I know it’s not a job to you. You and your sister both love to sing. I’m confident that God will be exalted and the folks will join in, aye? Paul nodded, hoping his reluctant heart made no appearance in his expression. He wanted to do whatever he could to please Archie, considering he was the man’s son. He quickly changed his half-smile to a full grin; earnestly wanting to be grateful and responsible with the talents he had been given.

“There are times when the two of you sing that you…the both of you together almost sound like your mother, God rest her soul.” The twins, each in their own way, resembled their mother. Almost like two halves of her whole in a way, they completed her legacy; Hope Swenson Graziano had bestowed a blessing to both as singers and as human beings. Paul put his head down, feeling entirely unworthy of his father’s pride. And he wished he felt at least as confident in his father’s love as he did in the confidence his father had in his and Ingrid’s talent. Too much responsibility to fulfill a legacy while trying to be only somewhat like his mother, Paul ached for that approval that Ingrid received. Wanting to be a daughter instead of a son will do that.

“I came across a diary your mother kept…it was like a companion piece to your “My Children” photo album. I have to say that after I read it I was so upset. She wrote about you and Ingrid…” His voice trailed off and he put his hand up to cover his face, but Paul could see the red streak growing across his face.

“She said you were like two of the same…” He choked back a gasp; for all the angry tears his father was shedding, the boy felt that life was going to change dramatically. He went to turn to leave, but he felt a hand on his shoulder. He went to pull away, but his father stepped behind him and surrounded him in a bear hug.

“I’m sorry, Dad…” He struggled to break away from the embrace but his father’s grip held firm. And then it happened; a moment in the lives of all three that would define them. Archie began to weep; his head pressed against Paul’s back. His grip loosened enough for Paul to turn around to face his father.

“She…she knew and I never saw it. Dear god in heaven, I never saw you at all. I am…” He put his head down on Paul’s shoulder and wept hard enough that Paul felt his own body reverberate in a way from the shaking. Paul knew how his father felt; nothing else would ever need to be said between father and child; an issue that was settled once and for all by words spoken from beyond time.

Some substitutions are seamless, like when a rookie takes over the mantel of a beloved veteran. Others are awkward and evoke resistance. The change in the worship team fell somewhere between acceptance and frustrated reluctance, but in the end all that mattered was that Archie could trust his friends to have his family’s ‘back,’ so to speak. The effects, both good and bad and not so bad, were immediate.

“You can’t let him sing!” One older man had said; the best interests of the child he was convinced was a boy were really at heart, even if they were completely wrong.

“If you allow this to happen, I cannot say what you may have visited upon this church,” another well-meaning if mistaken woman told the senior pastor, completely bypassing Archie.

“It’s wrong and I can’t stay to be a part of this,” yet another said to the twins, not meaning well at all.

“I don’t understand this, Arch,” the care pastor said, “but I trust you to know what’s best for your kids and us.” He smiled and laughed softly with a suspicious grin, setting Archie into a very nervous posture until he continued.

“I suppose her name is Paula?” Archie smiled back and would have kept from tearing up if he could, but the significance of the moment wasn’t lost on him. He breathed in and out with a heavy if somewhat contented and very peaceful sigh before speaking,

“No…” He said it, not curtly, but with a grin. It seemed almost silly, but Archie had promised Paul he would allow his child to tell the congregation the new name that Sunday.

“I’m very nervous, folks. I can appreciate how many of you might share that feeling if for entirely different reasons. And I’m saddened that our congregation has grown a bit smaller. I can only believe that our friends will remain friendly and in fellowship with you. Even if they are absent, they still remain in our hearts.” A few nods and some quiet asides followed by anxious silence.

“And I’m glad that all of you have chosen to continue to love us. To all those who don’t quite understand but have expressed confidence in me and my family, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. “ The words were slower; his voice cracked halfway through ‘thank you.’ He put his hand to his face; not out of shame but in humility before the expression of grace. No one spoke, but everyone smiled and nodded in agreement. A few moments later he was joined by Ingrid.

“I’m so glad that you love us. I don’t know how I could ever get by without the love you have shown me and my family.” Ingrid smiled and swung her hand toward the door by the stage where a girl stood; almost a complete mirror image of Ingrid; that true mirror image where right is left and the hair parts on the opposite side and the eyebrow arches ever so slightly but opposite as well. She stepped forward and grabbed Archie’s and Ingrid’s hands; her grip was tight and nervous. Ingrid kissed her father and pulled the girl off to his side just a bit.

“I want you to know that this is the best moment of my life. I have hope because of the love you shared with us enough to accept every part of who we are.” She turned slightly and nodded to the sound guy in the back of the church. A second later music played from the speakers behind her and she began to sing. And a moment later alto mixed sweetly with soprano as Ingrid and Hope Graziano sang together for the very first time. This time, like many more, would be a first musically as they would go back and forth as Hope sang soprano for the very first time as well.

And in that moment, everyone remembered the gentle woman who had birthed them. Nods and polite whispers did not intrude on the performance…. No, not performance but rather sweet expression of the two as they sang in a way that reminded everyone that they were created in their God’s image and of course their dad’s. And their mother, Hope. In her image.


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This story is 1597 words long.