Thursday, January 24, 2013

corner piece

Several young men stood smiling, each one beside his lawn mower. The one I knew, but didn't know, had hair. Dark hair. And his eyes twinkled. The photo had gotten bent somewhere, some time between that day and this. The white line that marked the bend didn't mar the people in the photo. It was just there, surprising and uncomfortable, at a safe distance from the story.

I put down that photo and picked up another one that I had never seen before that day. The photos filled a table, puzzle pieces of a life.

A man approached the table and I silently moved sideways, sharing the pieces with him. We were silent for a while. I picked up photos and held them. I put them back in their places.

I asked, "How did you know him?"

"We worked together at the university, after he retired from the phone company."

We stood in silence again. He looking. Me touching, turning, thinking.

He broke the silence this time, "I didn't know he was married twice, that there were children from the first marriage. He never said."

I looked him in the eyes for the first time and whispered, "I am one of them."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Over 40 Gratefuls

That is, things I did not appreciate until I was in my forties.

427. Coffee.
428. Leftovers.
429. Explosions.
430. Especially cannons.
431. Classical music.
432. Classical music with explosions.
433. Not winning.
434. Running.
435. Giving.

Friday, March 16, 2012

don't worry about that stuff

We had iloveyougoodbyed.

Steve is driving El to school today and they left but she rushed back in and down the stairs and came back up with a water bottle.

"Yay, I get to see you again already," as she stopped to tuck a draped something back around the basement doorknob so the door would close.

"Don't worry about that stuff," and she looked up at me and smiled and left the door unclosed and we got to iloveyougoodbye again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

ordinary extraordinary

I wrote this in December but never put it here. Here it is. She had a marvelous time.


"
Today is extraordinarily ordinary.

In a room that was once known as the Large Unfinished Room and is now known as the East Room -

a room where the wife of a president did laundry,
where troops bivouacked,
where an explorer resided,
where presidential daughters married,
where a son played with goats and where that son's father later laid in state after he was assassinated,
where the Civil Rights Act was signed,
where Sunday services were held,
where a president wrestled
-

in that very room El,
an ordinary, extraordinary girl,
will play her oboe today.
She may hit a few bad notes and struggle to stay in tune,
but she will also play brilliantly and her joy and her smile will light the room.
I am humbled today with the thought that any ordinary person,
regardless of the location of the room in which they do their best at what ever they do,
is free to be extraordinary.
"




Monday, January 2, 2012

the beat

Mo was one voice in a group of girls who had the honor of singing in the snowflake scene in the Philadelphia Ballet's production of George Balanchine's Nutcracker at The Academy of Music. It's a phenomenal production. The Philadelphia Boys Choir usually sings during the scene, but they cannot make it to all the performances. Mo's school choir director has a long standing arrangement that this group of high school girls will sing when the Boys cannot. She was in the group three years in a row. I was able to go see the show her first year and her last year. The first year, when she was a sophomore, I also got to go along as a chaperone for one of the performances.

Backstage at the ballet felt homey and also foreign to me. I was a gymnast when I was a girl and I experienced a different kind of backstage, yet there were many familiarities. There is a lot of visible action and there is also a palpable stillness - waiting readiness. Ballerinas wear ridiculous makeup that looks completely unnecessary up close (as an aside, I struggled with the spelling of unnecessary and ended up with 'unnecescary', which I love!), yet from afar, the makeup is perfect. One ballerina sat gracefully on the floor, needle and thread in hand, mending the costume she was wearing. The sounds are more hushed the closer you are to the stage. There are a lot of ropes and wires leading to seen or unseen things. And there is a lot of staring, I suppose it's because we, the unfamiliar, were on the move through their well oiled backstage gears. The singers have to make their way through the backstage area, including a gauntletesque hallway filled with dancers and crew, to a box just off stage where they crowd together and sing before the audience.

The choir performs - the lyrics are one word, "Ahhhhh" - for just a few minutes right before the intermission and then they are done. It's glorious!

(Pardon a second aside - The whole time backstage I was scared I would trip over a wire or an outstretched leg and break the whole show. I move through life like that, I've realized recently. Perhaps I've always known that about myself and just didn't want to face it. I am backstage ushering perfectly capable people to where they already know they are going and I am trying to follow in their wake without screwing something up from behind - and thank you for your indulgence because when I started writing, I thought this really didn't have anything to do with me and it turns out it has everything to do with where I turn my eyes. Turns out, I am a singer even if I'm slightly out of tune.)

Mo told me something interesting last year, after her last performance as one voice in a group of singers in one scene in the Nutcracker ballet. If you've seen the show, you know that besides professional dancers and young dancers and young singers in that one scene, there is also a live professional orchestra.

Now, on to what Mo said.

It's a temptation for the singers - having just prepared their voices, having waited at the ready, and having trekked backstage and through the dark - it's a temptation for the singers to watch the well lit, decorated, masterful dancers.

If the singers do watch the dancers, they will ruin everything.

The dancers listen and rely on the singers for the beat. The singers must look to the conductor for the beat so they will be with the orchestra. The singers have to keep their eyes on the conductor. If the singers ignore the conductor and watch the dancers, the singers might take the beat from the dancers.

The show only works if all those people, young and old, students and professionals, keep the beat of the conductor who is only slightly elevated and dimly lit there in the pit.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Daffodil in December



What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

~~Robert Herrick

Friday, December 9, 2011

when I heard

Yesterday we brought Mo home from her first semester of college. We were in the car for thirteen hours and thirteen hours in the car is a test of endurance. We listened to the audio version of A Christmas Carol for a while and we listened to a lot of music, and toward the end when we were all getting punchy we sang along.

That's when I heard.

She no longer sings like a teenager.

Her voice is a woman's voice.

I heard.