A week ago Micah and I flew to London. The occasion was the premiere of a choral piece my brother had composed. It was commissioned to be about the four seasons, and my brother wrote it in the year after our mother’s death, which was also the second year of his son’s life. What better to ponder then than the cycles of nature in all their coming and going?
I’m amazed that he was able to produce something of this magnitude at a time when I, her other kid, was deep in therapy and writing emails to our dead Mama. But my brother is a musician. Music is his medium. So I believe that’s how he addressed her and her suffering and death. Out of his grief he created something at once ethereal and lasting – song. To be sung for the first time the night before Mother’s Day.
here I go. Forgive me for putting this out into the blogosphere, but I need all the space and the public-announcement-feel of it. A little card won’t do.
I’m so glad Micah and I came to London. Seeing you, his very own uncle, perform your very own The Seasons may have taught Micah more than all of first grade. And he’s learned a ton in first grade. A ton of hard and important nitty-gritty like reading, writing and number-juggling.
But seeing you play the night of May 10, 2014 showed him how learning a ton of hard nitty-gritty can bring you to cool places: Like a big concert hall with a full orchestra, chorus and jazz trio of British heavy hitters playing your music and a rapt audience of hundreds of people hearing it, and your The Seasons listed alongside Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Orff’s Carmina Burana in the program.
Even more importantly, you showed Micah how learning a ton of hard nitty-gritty may enable you one day to create something great. Something that will earn you cheers and applause and the privilege of having given others pleasure and/or pause and/or reason to move.
All this, I’m hoping, Micah learned osmotically by watching you put on the finishing touches – buy your white bow-tie and figure out how to tie it – and then step onto that stage and perform your work.
You in the concert hall are an image of achievement I will be sure to remind him of. Thank you for making it so visible to a seven-year-old.
Your performance was much more than a “teachable moment,” though.
What it was to me is harder to put in words. That’s why I was quiet on the train ride back. I didn’t know what to say, but in the best possible way. You’d given me all three – pleasure, pause and reason to move – and I was still happily stunned.
When Micah asked me to read the poems you had put to music, I hesitated because I knew how present they would make Mama and our loss in that long emptyish London Overground train. And I was right. Micah picked up on it, too, when he asked about Teasdale’s Snow Song: “Why does it say I should die?”
For Micah our trip was back to Oma, too. The one and only time he’d been to London before had been with her as a four-year-old when he was holding her hand obsessively (and she his) as we all crossed the Millennium Bridge. Retracing some of those steps with you was unexpectedly reassuring: It’s all still there, imbued with our memories of her who was there on another day.
At the end of the concert I found myself thinking: This was powerful enough to reach the outer reaches of the knowable world where Mama might still faintly hear its echo.
She would have been so thrilled to sit in that concert hall last Saturday. One of the reasons she wasn’t ready to die yet being that she knew we, you and I and our spouses and our sons, still had things up our sleeves.
To see you play piano, white bow-tie, tails and all, in Carmina Burana, one of her all-time favorites – that alone would have made her burst with motherly pride.
And then to hear your take on the seasons…
Except you couldn’t have written them as you did, had she been there. They would have been different seasons in her presence.
But so it was I who was asked by the man in the next seat: “You must be a very proud sister!”
“Am I ever, and I can’t even applaud – ” since I was still pointing the camera that gave me away as belonging to you.
I heard in The Seasons a beautiful tribute to our mother, her life and her love. After all, Mama worked with the seasons in her beloved garden year in and year out.
She wanted to see one more spring like Blake’s.
She knew the magic of Dusk in June.
She died feeling the weariness Rossetti evokes in Autumn Song.
As for Snow Song –
Thank you for bringing some of her out in your music.
That big fat double rainbow we saw on the Overground train on the way to your concert must have been her smiling upon us, our reunion, your art.
Thank you for making it all happen on May 10, so we could quietly be together on Mother’s Day this year.