Written by Lisa Williams
“Hello,” a deep female alto voice spoke out. “Rub-A-Dub-Dub. Can you hear me,” she asked?
The startled woman looked around her living room and did not see anyone. She was quite concerned that she was hearing voices that did not exist. For years Rita’s hearing had been deteriorating, so she finally bought a set of hearing aids. Today was her first time wearing the aids. Was she picking up conversations from her neighbors?
Rita was cleaning her bookshelves, and when she ran across the antique bottle her Great Aunt Della had given her when she was a small child of eight. It was a beautiful blue bottle, about twelve inches tall and shaped like a viola. Her Aunt Della instructed Rita, nearly every time she visited, that if she held the bottle up to her ear, she could hear the music of great composers. Rita loved her Great Auntie very much and believed her every word, but no matter how many times she tried and tried and Rita could never hear the music.
That blue bottle had a place on every bookshelf Rita had ever owned over the past sixty years. As it was so dusty, she decided to give the bottle several good rubs. It sparkled when she held it up to the light. The blue glass radiated prism-like images on the pale green walls in her rather small living room. While polishing the outside of the bottle, she accidentally slipped the cork off.
“Excuse me,” The voice was noticeably clear to Rita this time. “I am here in the bottle, in case you are wondering where I am. Your hearing aids are not picking up your neighbors’ conversations.”
Rita almost dropped the bottle she was so surprised. “Who are you?”
I am your Genie and I will grant you three wishes,” she explained.
“My Genie,” Rita laughed. “Are you for real?”
“As real as I can ever be,” the Genie professed.
Rita replied, “I was cleaning up this wonderful bottle my Great Aunt gave me years ago. I think of her every time I look at it. I didn’t know it was your home and you were living in there. My Auntie used to perform for the Cincinnati Zoo Opera. I remember she also appeared as a guest soloist for the Cincinnati Symphony a couple of times.”
“Ok, Ok! I get it, Auntie was a singer, yadda, yadda. Now for your first wish….,” the Genie said impatiently, trying to hurry Rita along before she went into shock. The Genie knew from 800 years of genie experience that shock would most likely happen to Rita as it did to all the others. After all, she had been bottled up living with Rita for fifty-two years!
Going along with the Genie’s request, Rita decided to make her first wish.
“Please grant,” Rita began slowly, “that I may hear the music of Ludwig van Beethoven’s most famous symphony entitled Symphony No.9 in D minor, Opus 125, by holding this bottle to my ear.”
“Granted, my dear,” the Genie responded with delight. The original version of the work of the realm of high art began to play. Rita sat down on the davenport and held the blue bottle up to her ear. She smiled with glee as she heard for the first time, music from the bottle, just as her beloved Auntie Della had promised. Rita rested her elbow on a brightly flowered pillow listening to the seventy minutes of the symphony. The music was very emotional and brought back many memories.
Rita hung onto every word and sound, experiencing the transforming feeling of the music. She felt refreshed and sad at the same time. She pondered the message Beethoven’s Ninth generated. To her, it was about all humanity living in peace and harmony together. This message was especially hard to bear as it was 1970, and the Vietnam War was raging. Rita thought to herself that it was so tragic that so many precious lives were sacrificed for an unclear cause. Her arm grew tired, holding the bottle.
When the piece was over, the Genie mused, “Did you know that Beethoven got his start in music as a viola player in the Bonn Orchestra in Germany back in 1783?”
“No, I did not remember that,” Rita said. “However, I remember my Auntie explaining to me once, that Beethoven was known to be the first composer to combine voice and instrumental music into a symphony. She used to say this innovation propelled him into greatness.”
“That is so true,” the Genie confirmed. “Now, for your second wish.”
Rita thought but a minute and asked, “Can you grant that I hear my Great Auntie Della sing the “Ode to Joy” once again?” The “Ode to Joy” was a poem that was written by Friedrich Shiller and incorporated by Beethoven into the Ninth Symphony. “Yes, I can,” the Genie responded. Rita held the bottle to her ear, and the vocal began.
Rita closed her eyes and listened intently. She visualized she and her Auntie sitting under the 200-year-old horse chestnut tree in her parent’s backyard during one of her visits from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
They were having a conversation about wonderful composers while embordering the trim on pillowcases. Auntie Della was humming “Ode to Joy,” while they stitched. Rita felt like she was melting into time, hearing her Auntie’s voice again and reliving the moment. It brought her much happiness to listen to her Auntie’s voice and the music from the bottle.
When the song ended, Rita told the Genie she was appreciative of her coming to visit that day. She was glad that she happened to be wearing her new hearing aids at the time. She enjoyed classical music, especially that of Beethoven.
Rita remembered her Auntie explaining the first performance of the Ninth Symphony was in 1824, and Beethoven was completely deaf. Rita was concerned that she might become deaf someday and never be able to feel and experience music again.
Coaching Rita along the Genie asked, “Do you have the third wish?”
“My wish is that you grant me the ability to always to hear music from the bottle whenever I want to for as long as I shall live,” Rita sheepishly asked, concerned that the wish might be too greedy.
“Granted and Goodbye,” the Genie said. Suddenly a little smoke cloud rose and disappeared into the bottle.
Rita was stunned, not sure what she experienced was real or not. It certainly seemed to be authentic. She put the worn cork back into the bottle reverently.
Carefully, Rita placed the beautiful viola-shaped blue bottle back on the bookshelf as it was the urn for her Great Auntie.