(This is the week by week release of my book Hello, My Name is Phillip. You are welcome to share this post. And, Merry Christmas, today! If you search “Phillip” under categories, you can see previous chapters. The book will soon be available on Amazon.)
Prior to this, Maggie had finished the dishes and returned to the room. She had sat listening to Henry read for a bit and then had walked into a smaller room from the living room. There she had switched on a light and just at the point of the story, when Lucy had rushed back into the room, Maggie began to softly play an instrument I had never heard anyone play like that, ever.
Something was different. The sound impacted me. It was like as soon as she began to play, my heart began to sing. The piano music began to paint pictures in my head like each note had its own color. It was so splendid that I couldn’t help myself and I had leapt off the couch before I thought about it, and heard Henry say, “Oh. Sssay there! Wwwwhere are you off ttto?” as I flew across the rug and wooden floor, to the framed opening that led into the other room, filled with light from the single floor lamp by the piano. The floral print wallpaper on the walls reminded me of Miss Jeanne’s dresses. A round rug sat on the wood floor, a small couch, grandfather clock, and another bookshelf. But what caught me the most was the music, that piano.
Maggie was sitting at an old upright piano; it was as tall as Henry but narrow and sat against the wall. Maggie played easily, fluidly. With her eyes closed, she played as if she too were painting pictures inside. Her fingers ran up and down the keys, lightly, joyfully. First slow, then fast, a rhythm like a drum, then a sound like a march. There was something unusual happening here.
When I walked up beside her, she stopped and said, “Oh, I didn’t mean to stop your story.” I shook my head and pointed at the keyboard. “Should I keep playing?” she asked. I nodded, wide eyed. So, she began to play more. She eventually played a song I recognized from church. Henry came up on the other side and as she played, he began to sing without a stutter in a lilting, tenor voice:
“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see…”
As she played and he sang, it was like a painting continued to appear in my mind and heart. Colors, all the colors were there in that painting. I felt all warm and peaceful inside. I stood there, hearing him sing and her play and felt like I was being washed in the color blue. It was like Lucy must have felt when she had first returned from that marvelous visit with Mr. Tumnus in Narnia. It was what Jonah might have felt like when he had been given another chance to go preach to those mean people in that town. Sure, he had been vomited up on land, and that was gross, but he had a chance at life again. “It beat being digested by the big fish!” That’s what Kevin had observed in class, anyway.
Skye had walked up beside me and sat down, head tilted to one side, also listening. He loved the music as much as I did. After that song, Maggie played another, then another, then another. I didn’t know these. Henry sang song after song. Maggie joined in on some of them. It was the grandest experience ever… In my heart I saw this beautiful painting happening—a landscape painting of this magnificent mountain, with trees on it, a lake in front of it, and rocks along the shoreline. I felt, for a moment, had I brush and paint I could easily make it happen on paper while listening. With another song, I saw a painting of a great dog, shaggy, huge, laughing with his eyes and wide, slobbering mouth. Then a third, I saw a dancing brook. You know the kind, water that springs and lifts and bubbles and laughs down a mountainside? I saw that once.
I never wanted this to stop. But it did. At the end of a song, she stopped playing, and then looked down at me. “Do you want to try playing?”
I nodded, although I had no idea what that meant.
Maggie helped me up onto the bench in front of the piano, and said, “Place your thumb of your right hand, here, this is middle C, and then place your little finger of that hand, here, this is called G. If you put your middle finger, here, on the E then play them together you will have a chord.” I played them, then rolled those three notes, then rolled up and down with the five notes under my five fingers. Then I played the same notes lower down with my left hand, and then rolled that hand as well, rolled up from the C to the G and then back down again. By the look in Maggie’s eyes, apparently, she didn’t expect me to do that. Then I played the chords together, both my left hand and right hand playing the same chord. Then I rolled the chord with my left hand while playing the chord with my right.
Then, I don’t know how to tell you this part, because it was just as mysterious to me. But the song that Maggie had played came back to mind, the first song that Henry had joined her in singing, Amazing Grace, and I played it. That’s all I can tell you, I played what I had heard. The music just flowed out of my fingers and the notes that Maggie had played came back to me. I couldn’t tell you how this happened and know how strange it may sound to you here. But I simply played it. Maggie and Henry looked at each other astounded, “Honey,” Henry said, “what have we here?”
She said, “I don’t know but I would say that this child has a gift. Because by the look on his face at first, I don’t believe he had ever stood up close to a piano before. And I want to help him learn more.” And she placed her hands on my shoulders and began to sing as I played, and a picture was being painted in my head.
That was my first time at a piano, and it went on for a while. I could just play. If it was in my head, it would come out my fingers. But the best part of the music, wasn’t that I was producing it, but it was this—when I played, I saw, and as I saw that reality of the presence of Jesus came into my heart. Those waves of love washed over me. It made me want to never stop. I played the song I had first heard the man sing on the record, “Comfort Ye my People,” and tears started streaming down my cheeks as the beauty of the music poured through me. We had just finished that song, Maggie had handed me a Kleenex and I was leaning against her, with her patting my shoulder when the phone rang.
“Hallo,” Henry said into the receiver. “Yesss. Wonderful. You sssay we have your boy! Well, wwwe do. What a maaagnificent personnn he is. We’ve enjoyed,” but that sentence apparently got cut off for he continued with, “We live on Mmmaple Drive, on the far ssside of the park. Yesss, come down Cornerstone, passssing the park on your left, untilll you reach 2nd, turn left, and thennn left again afterrr the park onto Maple. We aaare the little cottage on the left-hand ssside, just past the fire ssstation.” He paused and then said, “Yes, our addressss is 25453 SE Maple Drive. Okay then. We will sssee you soonnn.” He hung up. He looked sad as he came back over, but said, “Wellll, it appears your nnname is Phillip James Smythe. Glaaad to know your nnname. Your folks are onnn their way over to ggget you. They finally rrreached the police and were given our nnnumber.”
Maggie looked down at me and said, “Phillip James. I like that. It fits you. Magnificent Phillip James. Maestro Phillip James. You are not here by accident, but Jesus told me how to find you and bring you here. I love music and I would like to help you learn more about the piano and allow your gift to develop. Your parents and I can talk about this, but first, I wanted to ask you if you’d like to come back here to play on the piano?”
I nodded and leaned into her more.
“Okay, my laddie. Then, I will see if your parents are willing for this to happen as well and then you and I can begin to learn more music together. My, oh, my.”
Maggie looked wistfully across the room. I didn’t know what she might be thinking but could imagine that it had been such a night of discovery for her. She had experienced the presence of Jesus and had this evening unfold. She looked down at me, I was still leaning against her, “I have this feeling, Phillip, that Jesus brought us together for some purpose.”
We were still there, my leaning against her, her arm around my shoulder, when a knock came to the door. Henry answered it and the lady in the white house and the man with the car tumbled into the room, looking around for me. The lady looked frightened, the man angry, his face red and those veins popping out. Henry stopped them, introducing himself to the man, who gave Henry his name, but the woman rushed past and came to me, she scooped me into her arms, and whispered again and again into my ear, “I’m so sorry, so sorry, so sorry. I was so afraid for you.”
I didn’t know what to think about that. That she would be afraid and be sorry both was not a surprise, but the tenderness was a surprise. However, just earlier that day we had had that moment in the closet when she heard me saying, “Hold you,” over and over and held me saying it was okay to keep speaking. So, maybe things could change.
The man, broke off talking with Henry, and came and grabbed my arm snarling, “Now don’t you try that again, you understand?” But the woman pulled me away and gave him the look. It was not lost on Maggie.
She spoke to the man with the car, who had taken a step back, looking as if he was about to strike, “Sir, my name is Maggie, your son has had a very challenging evening. And from the looks of it, so have you. Did you know he can play the piano?”
“Play the piano?” he stammered, suddenly uncertain. “He has never been near to one.”
“This boy has a musical gift unlike any I have ever seen in my 69 years of musical experience. He can play. He just finished playing for us. He played for nearly a half an hour, song after song after song.” This took the wind right out of his anger. His face softened. I didn’t think I had ever seen it soft.
“You mean actually play or just a finger at a time.”
“Oh, no, play, fully, beautifully, with chords and rhythm, scales and glissandos. This boy has a gift. And I know you are anxious to get home, but I want to offer to begin to give him piano lessons. I’d not charge but ask only for the privilege of working with this, this little maestro. Besides that, Henry and I have taken a liking to him since we found him.”
“However, did you find him?” the lady in the white house asked, still holding me.
“Well,” Henry answered, “howww about I answer thaaat. You sssee we were home, and Maggie told mmme we would be having company for sssupper tonight. She didn’t know howww but told me Jesus had sssaid to make bread aaand cookies, when she haaad already ssstarted the stew. I was a bit perplexxxed; I hadn’t heard that anyone planned to commme. So, I asked how ssshe knew? And she told mmme the most amazing ssstory. She sssaid, during her prayer tiiime this morning ssshe had received a visionnn. That’s ssseeing with her heart sssomething that was revealed to herrr. In her vision, it wwwas evening, there was a ssstorm and there in the rrroot cave of that bbbig tree at the park sat a little bbboy and his dog ssshivering. She knewww that we were to go out aaand find him that evening.”
“But that’s incredible,” the lady in the white house said, “we were not even home yet at that point in time. Phillip didn’t run until just before dinner time.”
“Well, that just goes to show you that with Jesus, time is not important; that being outside of time means he can speak showing us what is yet to come and lead us to where we need to be,” said Maggie.
“You are telling me, you actually received a picture in your mind this morning seeing that this boy, Phillip, would be in the root tree cave this evening?” the man with the car asked slowly.
“That’s about it,” said Maggie.
“I never thought that was possible. I thought the gifts all ended with the apostles,” the man with the car said almost to himself, musing, totally forgetting how angry he had been a moment before. “You sure, now?”
“Michael, nnno doubt of it. In fact, if there wwwas anyone who doubted thisss, it was me,” stammered Henry. “When ssshe told me this evening that it was tttime to go find our dinner guestsss, I was cantankerousss about it. Telling her ssshe might have just imaaagined it, and all. But she wwwas not to be persuaded otherwise, and sssaid, ‘What harm would it do to go look. If ssshe heard wrong, the onnnly thing it would make usss is wet from the storm. But ifff she had heard right and we didn’t gggo, well, that would beee disobedience, one, but also would leave that bbboy and his dog ssstranded.’ Well, when she put it like thaaat, I couldn’t say anything againssst it. So, we went out into the ssstorm, through our gate, acrossss the bridge, into the park, and when wwwe arrived at the root cave I can tell you, I was as sssurprised as Phillip and that pup were! Therrre they were.”
“We came here, they haaad dinner with usss and then we discovered Phillip and mmmusic are pals.”
The man with the car was still shaking his head, as if awakening from a dream, “I cannot find a place to put this. I don’t know what to say.”
Okay—that was a first. Him not talk, not yell, not get angry. His eyebrows were furrowed. The anger had left his face, his skin had returned to normal color. I looked up at the lady and she was looking at me, saying, “You were rescued, Phillip. Rescued. Jesus must love you lots, little guy.”
Then looking at Maggie, she said, “I cannot thank you and Henry enough. Your obedience, your love, your graciousness—I’m overwhelmed. Of course, Phillip can come here for lessons. Let me write down our number as we have yours, so we can connect by phone and make arrangements for a time.” Then to the man with the car, “Perhaps we can head home. Phillip needs to get to bed.”
“Right,” the man with the car said. His hair ruffled and his countenance still perplexed. He shook hands with Maggie and Henry, thanked them, and we left. Skye followed us out the door.
Once in the car, the man and the lady talked on the way home. “What do you make of that?” he asked her.
“The only thing I can is that Jesus actually spoke to her and showed her our Phillip,” she responded.
“How can it be true?” he wondered aloud, “But then again, they found Phillip and Skye, so, how can it not be true?”
And with that, for the first time ever that I remember, we drove home in silence, but not the tense kind borne of anger. Just silence.
Like the sound you hear in the middle of a grove of trees far from city noises.
When we got home, the good feeling left. The man with the car snapped at the lady, “Now, get in there. How could that ever have happened like that old lady said? There’s no way.”
The lady in the white house looked at him and snapped back, “You are insulting and wrong about so many things. Please go stay someplace else tonight.” And with that, she got out, opened the back door of the man’s car and said, “Come on Skye. And Phillip, you come too. Let’s go inside.” We got out. The man with the car had not yet said a word. Another first.
Then he said, with some attitude, “I think I will do just that.” And before we reached the front door he’d turned the car around and peeled out down the street.
I could not believe what had just happened.
The lady in the white house had gotten easier to be around recently. It seemed like she totally believed Maggie. And she seemed softer than she once had been. We got to the door and realized that the man with the car had left with the house key. The lady said there was a window that was unlocked. “Phillip, if I help you through the window, can you come unlock the door?” I nodded. That sounded easy. I pointed at Skye and lifted my arms.
“You want Skye to come in with you?” I nodded. “I think we can do that. He will need to jump to the floor inside, okay? I think he’d be too heavy for you to catch him.” I understood that. I just didn’t want to go into that house alone.
So, we walked on the brick walkway along the side of the house, and then around the corner on the wet, soggy grass around to the bathroom window off the side of the house. The lady lifted the wooden window open. It slid up leaving an opening that was small, but plenty big for me.
First, she tried lifting me up over her head, but that wasn’t going to work. Then she directed, “Could you try walking up the side of the house, Phillip, as I lift your shoulders, and then put your feet first through the window?” It took a few tries. I did that while she held me under my arms. Once my feet were up and my knees were inside the window, she said, “Now, Phillip, turn over.” I did, and my feet dropped down the inside wall. Then I found the toilet tank lid, and something knocked off it, crashing to the floor.
“Don’t worry about that Phillip. We are going to get in and then we can fix anything that needs fixing.”
I found the toilet seat as the lady steadied me under my arms. Then she released me and grabbed my hands, and I was able to get down onto the floor.
She called in, “You ok buddy?” I nodded in the dark. “Walk across the room and turn on the light.”
But right then the house groaned. When I heard that sound, I got scared. What was that? Was the man with the car inside somehow? Was someone else inside? I froze. Then sank down to the floor next to the tub and started to rock back and forth.
It was dark. It was scary. It was black. I heard a voice, the lady’s, but couldn’t make it out. It was like I was slipping down into someplace dark. Where were the nice feelings? Where was the music? Where was Jesus?
“Phillip? Phillip? Honey?” Through the window she could not see anything nor hear anything except my frantic rocking and my back thumping against the tub. She lifted Skye up saying, “Big fella, your boy needs you.”
She helped Skye get up to the window and got his front paws and head easily through. Then, as best she could, she eased him through until he was able to leap over the toilet to the floor with a thud. He put his paws on my leg. I was saying my colors; he was licking my face. The warmth of his tongue and his body pressed up to me began to calm me. Eventually, I stopped rocking and started to cry. I put my arms around Skye’s big neck and hugged him. I was okay.
“Phillip?” I heard the lady’s voice again, “Phillip? You okay buddy? Could you turn on the light now and then come with Skye to the door to let me in?”
Skye let me hug him for a moment and then he stood up and tugged on my sleeve so I would stand up too. I went and turned on the light and then it felt better. On the floor by the toilet was the metal container with the fake flowers that the lady kept in here. It had fallen but looked like it would be okay.
Skye and I walked through the house. I turned on every light switch I came to, and finally arrived at the front door. I unlocked it so the lady could come in. She stepped inside but left the door open while she got down on the floor and enveloped me in her arms. I heard her saying, “I’m sorry that was scary.” She was right. It had been.