Gloria. That’s my best friend’s name. When I first met her I wondered why her mother had named her that because there wasn’t anything glorious about her.
Our sixth grade teacher, Miss Anderson, called roll and was walking up the aisles placing books on our desks when Gloria wandered in on the first day of school.
She stood in the open doorway looking like a lost waif. Her black, curly hair framed her sun-baked skin. A worn safety pin peeked out from under one strap of her faded sundress. Clay dust coated her sandals.
Miss Anderson set down the pile of books on my desk and turned toward the doorway. “Can I help you?”
Gloria hung her head and hesitated as she stepped back into the hallway. She whispered, “No, M’am.”
“Are you lost?”
“No, M’am. I’m ‘spose to be in this class.”
“What’s your name?”
“You’re a bit late, but come on in and take a seat back here.”
Gloria sat in the desk next to me. She began to hum, a habit that continued to be both annoying and soothing throughout the following school days.
One afternoon we were walking home after school when Gloria’s humming burst into heavenly song. She turned at the intersection that should have been the parting of our ways. I stumbled from my position and ran to catch up with her. “Gloria, where did you learn to sing like that?”
“I don’t know. Mama said I burst out into song when I was born and haven’t stopped since.” She giggled.
Grabbing her hand, I pulled her along. “Come with me to my house.”
“My mother is a music teacher and I know she’ll want to hear you sing.”
“I’ve gotta get home and do chores.”
“Please. Just this one time.”
“Okay. For a few minutes.”
I pushed Gloria out in front of me as my mother entered the living room. “Mom. This is Gloria. I want you to hear her sing.”
“Come on in. I’d love to hear you sing.” My mother sat down at the piano and reached for a book of music. “What song can I play for you?”
“I love to sing Christmas carols. Can you play “O Holy Night?”
My mother played an introduction and Gloria closed her eyes and began to hum along. And then the miracle happened. She opened her eyes, tilted her head back and celestial music filled the room as she sang. I was convinced that she was a descendant from a choir of angels.
Through the next few years, my mother arranged for Gloria to enter several singing contests. She won them all and received a scholarship to study at Julliard.
. . .
It’s Christmas now and I sit in the front row at Carnegie Hall. The New York Symphony Orchestra begins to play “Angels We Have Heard On High” to a sold out audience.
Dressed in a white flowing gown, Gloria seems to float across the stage. The lighting creates an aura around her as her majestic voice fills the hall with the chorus, “Gloria In Excelsis Deo”, glory to God in the highest. Without a doubt, I now know why her mother named her that glorious name.