A Musical Note

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In the words of Stevie Wonder “Isn’t she lovely, isn’t she wonderful..”.  I would like to introduce the newest member of our family…Portia Amalia.  Portia means work  and Amalia means an offering.  She came to us on Monday and like any new member of a family…I just like to sit and admire her and wonder how she will enhance our lives.

I know I might have mentioned in a previous post that for my last birthday, almost nine months ago, my FHB told me that he wanted to give me something that he believed I  wanted.  He wanted to get me a piano.  I thought it was a perfect idea.   I was very patient.  We got a refrigerator.  I continued to be very patient.  Pianos take a while to arrive, like all things.  And then, through a conversation with a friend, and a very serendipitous event (another neighbor was moving and had a piano that needed adopting), the arrangements were made for Portia to travel down five steps, about a couple of hundred feet, carried by four burly gentlemen and a supervisor, and she arrived, none the worse for wear.

My playing skills are quite rusty. I sat down last night, with a book of “Memorable Standards” (quite an easy quick learner type)  and gently pressed the keys and Paka the cat yowled.  Everyone’s a critic.  I tried again, and my FHB, with his lovely baritone voice accompanied my version of As Time Goes By, and Paka yowled.

This wasn’t our first piano, but that other one was one of our kid’s piano,  and we just enjoyed it till it left. You would think that pianos were just a come and go kind of item in our lives.  The moving men have enjoyed the fruits of their labor as they kept moving that piano and this newer piano between homes.  It’s a living in this transient world of ours.

This morning, one of our sons asked if we were going to stay in the lofts for a long time….translated into “till you die?”.  I asked why would you ask that question and his response was “well, now that you have a piano…”.  Portia hasn’t been with us for long enough for me to see past the novelty.  We are surrounded by things, which I personify with names reminiscent of where/who they came from.  We have a piece of furniture that was custom built for my maternal grandparents when they married in 1911.  It came from their house, to my aunt’s house in New York City, to several of the houses we have moved to and from.  We call the piece “Tante Lisel”.  Another piece was in an apartment that I rented between houses. The owners asked if I minded if they kept a curio cabinet they owned in my apartment, because it was very heavy and they didn’t want to move it.  When we moved out, I asked, having grown fond of it, if we could buy it and we now call that one “John and Nina”.  I’m very sentimental about my possessions and like to imagine the people who are connected to them with the names I give them.  I feel a song coming on and as I sit looking at Portia, the words to “I’ve Got a Crush on You” are floating through my head.  Excuse me while a play a few notes…

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Home is a Who

I met him on a Monday, and my heart stood still…. and so the song goes (for those of you who are purists… the song is actually “I met him on a Sunday” by the Shirelles).  We had our first cup of coffee and then he asked if he could take me to dinner.  I told him that I had to walk the dog.  He asked if he could meet the dog.  I acquiesed, because Charley, who was my roommate at that time and my beloved border collie mix pooch, was  a very good judge of character.  And so it began…we went to dinner and I found out that he was not a fan of Frank Sinatra, he wore very nice clothing and he was very creative and had a lot to say and I was in the mood to listen to every word.  He also took his mother out which I thought was a nice trait, especially when he would bring her back.  Thoughtful, I thought.  We spoke every day back then even though he said he was not a phone person. We progressed to spending time together every day which turned into weeks and months and marriage and life.  And there we were and here we are.

Sharing a home is often an experiment in compromise, collaboration and sorting out the conflict.  It is also a marriage of creativity, a cultural exchange and contentment.  A home is more than a space but is a metaphor for feeling safe when the world is fraught with inexplicable and insurmountable madness.  We found each other, my FHB and me, later in life.  There didn’t need to be a lot of time to figure out that we were walking in the same direction, didn’t want drama, and wanted harmony.  We started out as adults and then began to remember what it was to like someone and then know that it was bigger and deeper and very personal.   Having been alone for a while without a partner re-established my understanding of my own strengths, subborn determination to do it on my own and to know that I was capable and smart.  It took a while to allow myself to lean on and into someone who was gentle and generous and very helpful.  I don’t ask for help…that’s the stubborn. I’m working on it.

We do projects…my Lucy moments to his Ricky minutes.  I can feel the eyes roll even if I am not in the same room.  He is metered in his thinking and creating.  I am impulsive and pushy to get things done.  We’re not getting any younger so let’s take only a minute not an hour and let’s do it!  It’s not easy, for either of us.  We are in the coordinating doctor’s appointment years and the “Talk louder” moments.  But we still inately can read each other’s minds at times which saves a lot of wear and tear and brings a lot of laughter and smiles.  My FHB has made our space our home, not only in the furniture and design elements he has created, but every time he walks in the door, I feel the “homing signal”.

Happy Anniversary, my FHB….thanks for all the days ahead of us and for all the ones we filled already.

Better Together

4 T UMAX     PL-II            V1.5 [6]There is an old expression or quote or riff on a saying that true love is falling in love with the same person over and over again.  This weekend, my FHB and I, along with a group of music lovers, enjoyed an annual jazz performance on a hot and sultry Sunday morning with some hot and cool jazz which made the listeners sway and shut their eyes and feel the music in their souls.  The church was the backdrop for the experience and it was filled with many of the same locals you seen at similar events.  The  filtered sunlight came through the stained glass windows as we sat and fanned ourselves with the paper fans we were given as we entered the space.  Then there was that moment, like a firecracker’s sizzle, which made me swell with love, for this place, this moment, this city.

The theme of the concert was on inclusion.  The singer, who was the M.C. stated that we are all better together in moments of crisis and in joy.  I couldn’t agree more.  New Bedford is my long time city and it has managed to pull me back when I strayed to nearby towns for several years in the forty-two years I’ve lived in Southcoast.  A city is a complex living organism.  It grows and stagnates at moments.  It thrives on care and positive interaction.  It withers with neglect and indifference.  The city I discovered in 1976 was losing some of its leaves, it’s vibrancy and it’s businesses.  There was some movement to more suburban/rural communities and yet now there is a flurry of growth, revitalization and so much energy.

I tried to figure out what the love I felt was made of. As in all relationships, there are days that are hard, filled with anger and disappointment and frustration during which you question, what am I doing here, does it matter?  It’s people who make a city be and become.  It is that sense of hope and challenge to make it strong and vital and better for the residents and for the future residents.  New Bedford has history, and cultural dynamics that appear in the different elements of food, cultural diversity and a willingness to problem solve as a collective.  It is a social consciousness that shows up in the music heard at all the venues around town and in the art, both gallery and public, and the food that is served inside homes, shared with friends and neighbors as well as in the restaurant scene, available and abundant.

Drove through some nearby communities, some with a lot more opulance, more visible affluence.  Drove by houses with manicured lawns and grand driveways and property.  Didn’t see any people.  Couldn’t connect with the energy because it was like a Hollywood set, between scenes.  Drove back to my city, my home and sure, there were pockets of poverty, dirt, loud noises and disarray, but when you come back to your own safe zone, and it isn’t picture perfect everywhere, you know people are really living there, living their lives, doing their best, together.  You could feel the pulse and all that jazz.  Cha cha cha.

Take a listen…

After Math

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I know it’s been a while since I wrote.  Lots of thoughts in my head.  I needed to let them out on virtual paper, or my head would have exploded, metaphorically, of course.  The last day of school for students and staff was four days ago.  The news of the separation of children and their parents  at the borders, seem to have culminated last weekend and spilled out of control with such fierceness and intensity as the week progressed.

As it does, as every school year ends in June, I go through a feeling of intense worry and concern about many of the students I counsel throughout the year.  I worry about their safety and security and comfort as we break for the summer.  I worry if they are getting enough to eat and if they are safe in their neighborhoods and if they are going home to an empty, violent or non-existent house. So many of our students have come here from other places and all they want to do is learn.   In loco parentis…feeling and bearing the responsibility for children in my care during the school year.

I am the daughter of immigrant parents who came to this country as adolescents under the threat of harm by the Nazis.  They were bullied and targeted as they prepared to leave Germany with their families for safety.   Despite their stoic mantle as they were displaced and relocated and settled into life in New York City, their future lives from that point on was marred with traumatic memories that impacted them as adults and as parents.  Their fears (more my mother), were projected on their children, and their worries about taking risks , safety and trust,  were imbedded in our psyche.

I feel somewhat sandwiched between my role as support to many children who have been raised in far less than perfect upbringings, and my role as a child of traumatized parents who grew up in difficult times.  I watch and listen and read the news of current events and can’t help but identify with both the parents and the children.

In a conversation long ago with my father, when I was the age he was when he came to New York, I asked how it happened that the Nazis came to power and how his awareness of what was happening in Germany then came to impact him and his parents.  He said that they heard bits and pieces but that there was a different type of media and propaganda and that “we didn’t believe what we heard might be happening”.  My dad was buried nineteen years ago this past Father’s Day.  That fact, along with the current state of the political discord, was hardly lost on me.

The cycle of history just turns and turns.  Worry and inaction cancel one another out. More questions, less answers.

Picture This

 

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Remember the ad that Kodak ran, “the moments of our lives”?  Kodak left for a while, but then turned around, came back, and took another picture of itself, this time digitalized.  And so we all became part of the world of personal photographers who chronical our “moments” for posterity, in perpetuity, forever, in “The Cloud”, wherever that really is.  We point and click, and download and upload.  There is no end to what we can take a picture of from a piece of clothing we want our friend to comment on “should I buy it?” to a street sign that captures something funny, to our children, grandchildren, or the license plate of the person who took our parking space, intentionally.   

There are the posed pictures, the imposed pictures “Smile!  Dammit!” as well as the unintentional pictures of our thumbs and the floor.  I have quite a few of those which I look at for any artistic merit before I put them in the little trash pail icon on my phone.  In my imagination, I envision a cartoon which has the Statue of Liberty surrounded by a mass of people whose faces we cannot see because instead they have a cell phone “photoshopped”  where their faces would be.  We are our iPhones/cameras.  We see through a lens,not just metaphorically, but through the viewfinders of our phones.  

The last significant scenic vacation that my FHB and I travelled was to Norway and Denmark.  The first several days of travel, I chronicled the trip through video and iPhone.  In order to actually get a sense of what I was seeing, I had to remember it via the video and still pictures.  Somehow that seemed wrong.  I felt that I didn’t actually “see” anything.  I didn’t feel the expanse of the mountains or glaciers.  I didn’t get the magnitude of the beauty of Bergen and the fjords because I was not memorializing the pictures in my mind, but rather on my phone.  

Technology is amazing and it has so many tools that we benefit by having access to.  Yet it does not replace our interactions with nature or people, up close and personal, and especially face to face.  I’ve put down the camera at times when I want to take a picture in my mind, and be part of the moment, in the moment.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, and yet some of those words are worth hearing as the person looks at you,  faces you,  and sees your response to something they say.  Something clicks inside us and we don’t need a button to see it.

Herstory

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I’ve felt tired and uninspired, which seems a bit Carole King-ish.  Then, my mood lifted and I found my inspiration.  She arrived via a documentary “RBG” and for those of us who don’t usually think of the Supreme Court Justices by their initials alone, Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the consummate rock star.  Her power transcends the bench.  Somehow, this small,older woman, is a connector between generations as well as with minorities.  Her vision of injustice is crystal clear.  My FHB and I went in to the theater with few expectations and came away feeling as though we had attended a musical and left singing her praises.  In a land which has more recently been confused by verbiage, innuendo and scary scenarios, we need someone like RBG to secure our belief that might and right will outlive fright.  She demonstrated that if you are stalwart in your belief about us all being equal in opportunity based on which the doctrines of our land was created, then the answer makes sense.  

To see her in the context of daughter, wife, mother and grandmother, as well as in her role as student, attorney and judge, makes her all the more human. She is loved and loveable.  Her humor and wit make her charming.   We need her compassion and wisdom to guide us.  The fact that she is all of the above, and more, makes her a natural treasure.  Don’t rush off, RGB. We need you now, more than ever.

P.S.  I have decided that this coming summer, reading the constitution will be good for my health.