Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Of all the presents I’ve received for Mother’s Day, this necklace is the most meaningful to me.

One night about three months after Bing passed away, Akemi approached my desk.  “Uhh, Mom,” she started.  “Yes, sweetheart?”  I said, looking up from the computer.  And she hemmed and hawed her way through a few more false starts at a conversation.  I waited.

“Well, okay, well. . .how do you order something from a catalog if you don’t have a credit card?” she finally spit out.  Not knowing yet where this was headed, I opted to get more information. “Well,” I asked in return, “is there something you would like to order from a catalog?”

With heart-touching anguish, she said, “Daddy always bought your Mother’s Day present, and I don’t know how to do it by myself.” 

Never mind that cousin Karen, among others, had offered to take her shopping.  I will never forget that tortured look on her face as she told me something she didn’t think I knew, and how that look revealed how inadequate and alone she felt in this endeavor. 

It was my turn to say, “Well.”  I knew how dissatisfying it felt when my mother said, “I don’t want any presents for Mother’s Day; I just want you to be good.”  By now I could see she was holding something behind her back.  Purposefully opted for what I hoped was a non-platitudinal approach, I offered, “If you see something in a catalogue you’d like to get me, why don’t you show me and we can order it together?”  Enormous relief crossed her face as she brought forth a catalogue with a dog-eared page.

Blue seed pearls with beads of green peridot, my August birthstone, on a handmade sterling silver chain: I would have loved whatever she picked out, but I have to say she really nailed it with this selection.   I told her I loved it, I really did, and with her standing there, picked up phone to place the order.

That 2003 Mother’s Day, I received many compliments when I wore it to church.  When Janice heard it was my Mother’s Day present, she grabbed my hand and said, “Wait, did Bing pick it out in advance?”  No, but maybe he sent her the inspiration to pursue this.  The universal reaction to this story was a combination of tears and, “You didn’t first tell her not to get you anything, right?”

I continue to receive compliments whenever I wear it, not just on Mother’s Day. The chocolate passed out at church and other good wishes on the day are nice, but no other remembrance is necessary, really, beyond my yearly opportunity to wear this necklace. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday evening, May 7, 2012

I simply forgot about dinner tonight, and everything else.  I have been playing for nearly two hours, and I feel I haven’t made a dent in getting re-acquainted with my piano.

It feels familiar in good ways. . .and different in good ways.  And I love, love, love the way it looks.

I’ve been asked what the first piece was going to be that I would play on it.  Without a doubt, it was going to be the Brahms Intermezzo Opus 118, No. 2, and for the record, it was.  After I built up some courage, I tried out some muscle memory with the Chopin 3rd Ballade in A-flat Major, Opus 47 and then skimmed my way through various Bach, Schumann, and Schubert numbers.  I didn't worry about not playing very well; I was just happy to be playing.  On my re-imagined, reconstituted piano.  I ended up with the Broadway showtunes and jazz pieces that have been favorites in this house for many years.  In between, I was giving phone reports to Akemi, Donald, Kelly, and Annette. 

Two blog posts in one day;  you can tell today was important.  Besides which,  I was a teen-ager the last time I put the priority on practicing over eating. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

On Saturday the e-mail arrived in my inbox with the subject line, "It's on its way!"  After seven months of transformative renovation, my piano had been picked up by the shipper for its journey home.  It's due to arrive this evening.

I haven't been able to stop staring at this photo sent by the technician before it left his shop.  I have never been unhappy with the way my piano looked before, but now it seems like the ugly duckling has become a swan, with a new high-gloss finish, new white key tops, and new ebony keys. Check out that new Steinway label, now positioned correctly.  And that’s even before we get to the difference in how it will play.

I’ve cleared my calendar to start breaking in the new hammers, before the technician arrives on Wednesday to voice it.  Then we’ll see what it will start to sound like.

Thanks again, Dad, for making the call for the Steinway.  I hope you’ll be watching, and listening.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Akemi’s violin teacher walked in the NEC room just as I was unfurling a tablecloth I had brought from home for the post-recital reception.  “Ah, a mother’s touch,” said Mr. Buswell. His gesture took in the flowers from Akemi’s roommate, which I arranged in a vase before we transported them on the Boston “T.”  I told Mr. Buswell that I had the reception prep drill down after 10 years of serving cookies and Martinelli’s at Colburn and helping backstage as orchestra parent manager.  He astutely commented, “You must miss it.”

Yes, it’s good to have things like ironing and gathering up refreshments to help your child on performance day, because at that point, that’s all you can do.  You can silently and fervently pray and hold your breath during the tough parts, but the music is all up to her. 

Fortunately for the nervous systems of her teachers and mother, Akemi has been an extraordinarily reliable performer.  The transition from a pre-college or “prep” environment to a conservatory, though, is a tough one, for all students – having to adjust to the lack of practice performances, the paucity of rehearsal time with the pianist, the juggle of learning so much repertoire in so short a time.  Her NEC freshman and sophomore recitals were exercises in getting used to a different definition of preparedness.  This time, her prep seemed in a groove.

This junior year recital program suited her well: sonatas by Mozart, Martinů, and Brahms, and a Bach partita.  And however she managed it, she went into this recital having had a very good lesson, and she came out of this recital deserving to feel very good about it.   I was amazed at how much her pieces had come together even more so since she was home just a few weeks ago on spring break.   

A number of her Cambridge University Ward friends were good to come, as well as fellow double-degree classmates and other students from Mr. Buswell’s studio.  Henry and Linda, our Boston “family,” made it, as well.  Almost 29 years ago to the day, Linda was my matron of honor – I could not have looked into the future that day and imagined that I’d have a daughter in college in Boston and that Linda would be our local support team.  Akemi, and I, were blessed to have so much love in that room to help celebrate another year of her musical accomplishments. 

The next morning, she did not rest on any laurels.  After a breakfast of her favorite homemade cinnamon rolls, Akemi was on to finishing projects for her Tufts classes.  She still has to stay focused on this program for another week for the really important performance, what NEC calls the year-end “promotional” (“juries” at other conservatories) when she plays for the entire violin faculty.  After the promotional, then she can be on to new pieces.

All too quickly, my turn-around visit in Boston, with glimpses of spring flowers standing sturdy in stiff, cold wind, was over.  I came back to my own academic year-end press of deadlines before commencement, and can’t avoid feeling behind this week.  But the most important priority last week was to get to be violin mom again, and marvel at the musician which Akemi has become.