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Opinion

Essay: Music carries me back to Long Island

St. Kilian Church in Farmingdale, where reader Anne

St. Kilian Church in Farmingdale, where reader Anne Donlon Achenbach and her husband stopped to pray in 1957 after putting down $25 for a house. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

My passport will expire in July. I really don’t need to renew it, although I probably will.

I doubt if I will travel abroad again. With respect to age, my trips will be confined to visiting my far-flung family within our own borders.

Yet, sometimes when I listen to music, I feel as if I have returned to other places.

On a recent morning as I tap my iPad to shuffle a playlist, Luciano Pavarotti begins to sing “Ave Maria.” Suddenly, I find myself suddenly back in Farmingdale in 1957. I am kneeling in a pew in St. Kilian, the redbrick church on Conklin Street, with my husband, Art. We stopped there after putting down a $25 deposit for our new home in nearby North Massapequa.

We parked the car on Cherry Street and went in together, both firmly believing it was where our children — we had two then, and eventually there would be two more — would have their first communions, confirmations and weddings. We believed it was where prayers would be offered for our souls when hopefully, far in our future, we departed this Earth.

The leaves of time fell, oh, much too quickly, and there were four weddings, but only one in the historic church. And the goodbye when it came for Art in 2008 was not there, but rather in the magnificent chapel at Madonna Heights, a home for young women in Dix Hills where we worshipped in later years.

A new song shuffles into position on my iPad, and suddenly a tenor’s voice fills my Michigan home and returns me to the Madonna Heights chapel on that sunny September morning as my heart is breaking. The sounds of “Panis Angelicus” transport me to the memorable farewell given to my beloved by the Sisters of Good Shepherd who cared for the young women.

A second pause, and then I hear Carmen McRae’s exquisite voice softly crooning the lyrics to “My Foolish Heart.” Another trip back in time, this one to a night in my beloved New York City in 1950. I am in the Gothic Room of The Duane hotel on Madison Avenue, once frequented by all young lovers. The sensuous blonde vocalist is not as renowned as McRae, but her voice is equally soothing. While listening to her hypnotic music, I answer my young lover’s question and promise I will spend the rest of my days with him.

Another quiet moment, and then my small apartment is filled by the haunting chant of “Still, Still, Still,” an Austrian carol and lullaby I first heard sung by combined Farmingdale church choirs. The lovely melody is the customary ending for both winter and spring concerts traditionally performed in the church on Conklin Street, where a lifetime ago, two very young people knelt and prayed.

So on that recent day I did travel, not only across the country, but back in time and space — and all sans passport. It truly was a wonderful trip.

Anne Donlon Achenbach, formerly of North Massapequa, lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

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