By Nancy Jorgensen

April 19, 2021


A fifty-something woman, wearing a faded floral dress, showed me the antique pump organ. “No one plays anymore,” she said, her wooden cooking spoon in hand. “And I could use the $150.” She went back to her farmhouse stove to stir a pot that smelled of onion and sage while my new husband and I—some said too young for marriage at only 22—whispered about the price. And whether the organ could survive the long trip home in our borrowed pickup truck.

Forty years later, the organ looks a little like we do, a bit worn and tired. A water-ring wrinkles the top of its oak cabinet. A yellow-brown haze stains keys that are rough-edged and chipped. Paper labels, brittle and brown, peel from its pull-out stops; the ones that remain name reedy sounds: celestina, celeste, dulciana, diapason.

A relic when we bought it, the organ plays as tuneful as the day we hoisted it off the truck, treble notes clear and thin, lower octaves lusty and brave. When I pump the pedals and finger the keys, notes become a melody, moods shifting major to minor or diminished to augmented.

Sometimes, chords create sympathetic vibrations that shiver our window glass. Then my husband investigates, wondering what the rattle is. He has always fixed what’s broken or worked to make things better. I play on, satisfied I have all I ever wanted—something that has lasted all these years, still true and in tune.


Nancy Jorgensen is a Wisconsin writer and musician. Her memoir, “Go, Gwen, Go: A Family's Journey to Olympic Gold,” is co-authored with daughter Elizabeth and published by Meyer & Meyer Sport (2019). Her choral education books are published by Hal Leonard and Heritage Music. See her website for more information:


Photo courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen

comments powered by Disqus « Back to Beautiful-Things

Newsletter Sign Up

shadow shadow