A Barricade, a Bear, and an Egg

We’re headed to my in-laws’ house, or perhaps the Jersey shore. A family road trip. My husband is at the wheel; our daughters in the back seat. They hold their beloved stuffed animals on their laps. There are no headphones or cell phones. In our future, when they’re older, there will be both. I’ll tune the radio to NPR. We’ll hear the election news or listen to an interview with actor Dev Patel. But here, now, I put a CD into the dashboard slot. The prologue begins, “Look down, look down, don’t look ‘em in the eye.” My husband would be happy never to hear Les Misérables again, but I don’t mind hearing it for the 200th time. Our daughters sing along. Correction. Humpty and Ahh Bear sing along. Aah Bear sings Éponine’s part and sobs with loud bear sobs when she dies. There is no barricade here in the car, but I see it nonetheless. Imagination is powerful, powerful enough to let me hear stuffed animals sing and make the tears of a teddy bear real.

 

Just one performance

life, replayed in memory,

paused and played again

 

 

 

I seem to be stuck on musicals, though that’s nothing new!  This is a haibun for dVerse. We were asked to write about singing along with music on a drive. You can listen to “A Little Fall of Rain” here. (Unfortunately, not the Humpty and Ahh Bear version.)

 

 

Voices and Memories

Monday Morning Musings

 

“I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could”

Dar Williams, “Iowa”

“We are not lost in the mortal city.”

–Dar Williams, “Mortal City”

“We both know what memories can bring

They bring diamonds and rust.”

–Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust”

“This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton

Shining like the memories

Inside those silver buttons.”

–Mary Chapin Carpenter, “This Shirt”

 

I don’t go to concerts very often,

but this weekend, there were two.

strong women, with beautiful voices

their voices shined and stirred memories,

diamonds and rust.

 

My daughter and I went to see Dar Williams,

her husband drove us through the puddled night,

the city lights glowed through the mist,

reflected on the streets of the mortal city,

but we were not lost.

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And we ordered food and wine

sharing platters and talking

of friends, family

(her sister would have loved to have been with us)

of TV shows, of her house-to-be

a special momma-daughter night

 

 

I remember when I first heard Dar Williams,

I was driving home from teaching a night class,

listening to Philadelphia station, WXPN,

hearing “When I Was a Boy,”

and I thought,

Who is this woman?

I have to find this album

And I did

sharing with daughters

(young voices of strong girls)

who sang along, even not quite understanding the words

until they grew older,

And now here we are, one of them with me at a concert

in this mortal city

It is a wonderful concert

And she is generous to others

Sharing the time with local author, Liz Moore

Who reads from her latest novel, The Unseen World

And joins Dar on the chorus of “Iowa”

And for several hours we

forget about the candidate who never had a way with women

(Voices of women will be heard.)

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In between concerts

my husband and I get a visit from our daughters’ friend,

our older daughter’s friend since kindergarten,

younger daughter was the little sister she never had.

I watched them all grow up together.

(Diamond memories, comfortable like an old shirt)

 

She had messaged me,

she was coming home and had been dreaming of my cookies,

the cookies we call “Mommy Cookies” in my house,

she wondered if there might be some this weekend,

And I said I could make it happen.

How could I not?

So she stopped by and picked up the cookies,

enough for her boyfriend to try one.

She says she likes where they live,

a people’s republic in Maryland

the town will take in refugees

(voice of the people).

She’s a strong woman,

like my daughters

all working to make this world a better place.

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So then that night

(Sunday, if you’re keeping track)

my husband and I drive back into the mortal city

we see the rainbow flags and signs

of the Outfest celebration in the Gayborhood

(Voices of love, is love, is love, is love is love is love

is love is love)

And though the rain has finally stopped

it is cool and windy,

We eat at a bar–

my husband laughs when I say,

“It is a good night to eat in a dark bar.”

He picks a beer to drink

I order wine

We both have the Belgian frites

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And we sit and talk before walking to the Academy of Music

(I’ve never sung in such a beautiful hall before,” Mary Chapin Carpenter says.)

and it is beautiful

and she sings,

and her voice is beautiful and strong.

(I remember, diamond memories, of my daughters

singing along to “Passionate Kisses”)

She reveals a bit of hero worship for both Lucinda Williams

and Joan Baez

who then comes out on the stage,

elegant and strong at 75,

with that voice

that distinctive soprano vibrato

(Who doesn’t worship her?)

She begins with a folk song

“Pretty Peggy-O,”

alone on the stage

the way she probably sang at the start of her career,

and she sings her way through the years

(memories of diamonds and rust)

and she sings alone

and she sing with others

all strong, beautiful voices,

and despite claiming she is tired and her feet hurt,

she sings several encore songs

including “Imagine”

because we need this song,

and “The Boxer,”

another song of another mortal city

still timely,

as we hear what we want to hear

and disregard the rest.

She ends with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

wanting it to carry us all home,

she sings with a laugh and says “Good night.”

 

In the car

(traveling home from the mortal city)

I read the texts from my daughter

(a strong woman with the voice of an angel)

She has filled me in on the debate.

I turn on NPR,

I hear a strong woman

and I hear the other voice

that I hope will fade like rust

leaving only a slight orange stain

We know what memories can bring,

diamonds and rust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo: Rainy Morning Radio

The_Ambassadors,_detail_of_globe,_lute,_and_books,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger

 

Lute strings plucked, the sound

evoking

great halls, velvet gowns

 

Anne Boleyn, Tudor

intrigue, and

Renaissance culture

 

melding then, soft jazz

horn’s wah wah,

urban melodies—

 

summoning days gone,

transporting

listeners away

 

to the past, music

captured, notes

heard floating through time

 

NaPoWriMo, Day 9.  A series of lunes.

 

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo: Railways

They changed history, the railroads.

They changed time, scheduling it with preciseness,

a new conciseness,

connecting towns, connecting people.

Clickety clack, clickety clack

the tracks of the Transcontinental Railway,

connecting a nation

Elation!

Refrigerated cars, carrying meat and produce

connecting farm and city,

Railway cars and urban gritty.

Clickety clack, clickety clack

Freight train

Freight train

going so fast

Salesmen selling goods and schemes

connecting consumers with products and dreams.

Clickety clack, clickety clack.

The Great Migration and Depression blues

changing where we lived, what we choose.

Clickety clack,  clickety clack.

Hobos and the Scottsboro Boys,

lonesome blues, lonesome noise,

justice denied,

hop a freight—

Wait,

will we ever get back home?

No, only forward.

Don’t look back.

Don’t look back.

Clickety clack,  clickety clack

The trains must run on time,

Up they climb,

to the halls of hell.

Well,

take a breath.

Come greet, Death.

Clickety clack,  clickety clack

Blood on the tracks

Blood on the tracks

Auschwitz, Dachau–

we wonder how,

how?

Can we stop it now?

Freight train, freight train,

going too fast.

Not so fast, not so fast, not so fast, not so fast

Clickety clack,  clickety clack

The mournful sighs

the tearful cries,

people and trains

remains

bound for glory.

You can hear the whistle

blow one hundred miles,

clickety clack, click clack

fading, fading, fading with time.

 

NaPoWriMo Day 6 . I used the Secret Keeper’s writing prompt, using these words

town/train/fade/hear/hall

 

 

 

Spirits and Spirits: Love and Joy Come to You

Monday Morning Musings:

“A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Christmas time

And the spirits of the past arise

Last week

I listened to Radio Times,

“The Pervasiveness of Tchaikovsky’s

The Nutcracker.”

The conductor described

The transformation to the snow scene,

A quiet moment in the action that she loves.

And when the music played

I remembered how much I loved

That section, too,

When the music swells

And the bed moves across the stage.

And it’s possible my eyes were a just a little teary

As I sat there in my car

And found my Christmas spirit.

The year we took our young daughters

To see The Nutcracker

I had won a prize,

The only time I’ve ever won a contest,

But what a spectacular one—

Box seats

At the magnificent Academy of Music

To see the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Production,

George Balanchine’s version,

A Philadelphia tradition,

Plus a tour of the stage afterward—

And, of course, a nutcracker

For our very own.

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We had watched The Nutcracker ballet

On television

With Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.

Our younger daughter was scared of the Mouse King.

But we told her to wait

And he would turn into a prince.

She did.

And he did.

The fear was gone

And she exclaimed,

“Princey Prince, I love you!”

A phrase we later quoted

Back at her.

Innumerable times.

It never bothered her,

And why should it?

She has her own prince now

Though he was never a Mouse King

He has also been transformed

But aren’t we all?

Fortunately.

There was no such outburst

During the Academy performance.

Our young daughters had been sick,

But they rallied enough to see the performance.

Somewhere there’s a photo

Taken on the stage

Of one daughter with the Sugar Plum Fairy.

I searched for it—

It was a Polaroid

Remember those?

In the days before cell phone cameras?

It’s in my memory,

The whole experience

A Christmas Past,

But I wonder if my daughters remember it

At all.

 

Our daughters often got sick at Christmas.

There was the year they had chicken pox,

First the older,

Then the younger.

Oatmeal baths

And calamine lotion.

In the midst of Christmas presents

And treats.

 

Then there was the year

We had to leave my mother’s

Suddenly and before

The festivities began.

The girls dozed on her bed–

With no interest in presents

Or treats.

We knew then they must be sick.

So back home we went to

Put them to bed.

We had planned to eat dinner

At my mom’s that night—

Perhaps the traditional Christmas dinner,

Bagels and lox?

And then travel to my in-laws’ house

The next day.

So we had nothing ready

For a quick meal.

Even the Chinese restaurants

In our neighborhood

Were closed.

I think my husband and I ate

Cold cereal that night.

Or perhaps peanut butter and jam.

But from then on

I always had a backup meal idea.

Lesson learned.

 

All those Christmases

With our daughters growing up.

Breakfasts with Santa

And the light show at Wanamaker’s,

The old department store

Now a Macy’s.

The high school Christmas concerts,

I loved the Madrigal performances best,

The girls in their beautiful Renaissance gowns.

My older daughter with her older friends

My younger daughter’s powerful soprano

Ringing out

“Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail, too.”

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Madrigal Gown serving double duty in a high school musical performance.

 

Now both girls are grown

And building their own traditions

With their spouses

One memory at a time.

As I unwrap my own.

Last year on Christmas Eve

Our son-in-law proposed to

Our younger daughter.

Dreams of future Christmases

In their heads.

I was also engaged

At Christmas time,

Many years ago

And many Christmases past.

That young woman still lives

Somewhere inside me

Dreams and experiences

A kaleidoscope of spirits

Past, present, and future.

Dizzying to try to sort them all

But somehow comforting, too.

Cozy memories

Providing Christmas cheer

As Christmas spirits should.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As for other Christmas spirits–

Mulled wine was our drink of choice this Christmas season.

It is simple enough to make by gently heating red wine with cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, orange slices, and a bit of sugar.

You can add some port to make Smoking Bishop. See Tori Avey’s recipe here

And more history from NPR here.

But we went the easy route this year by buying some already spiced red wine.

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And added to the cookie rotation

These Pecan Pie Truffles with a bit of bourbon. Delicious!

A bit of spirit for the spirit.

So to speak.

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