Monday, February 9, 2009


…up in the Berkshires. A little reunion of sorts on Friday night and Saturday morning. Three friends I’ve had for, in the case of two of them, over half my life, and the third almost half—an actress known mostly for her movies, who has always been involved in lots of creative endeavors including writing; a photographer, who has become known also for his poetry; and an actor (also know for his movies) who's written a novel and has a small book of poems due out soon.

We hadn’t all been together in decades. It was such a restorative experience, catching up and sharing with people whose histories we not only know but share, and whose struggles, some shared some not, and lifetimes of dreams and disappointments and private achievements, and creative goals and continuing commitment to them we each know so well and understand deeply and accept completely.

It was a gas, as they used to say.

Then Saturday night my oldest child, my daughter, sang in a little cabaret venue (set up in a beautiful old building) in the small country town where she lives. Two of my old friends joined me along with my youngest son and grandson for that (the third old friend had to return home to read through a novel manuscript one last time before the deadline for submission).

I’ve heard my daughter sing in recent years with the Berkshire Bach society’s chorus, or in her church choir, but she hasn’t sung outside those situations, in a club setting, in half her lifetime.

It was an almost last minute guest shot as a back up singer on several songs for a popular local band that specializes in reinterpreting obscure and well known rock and folk and blue grass numbers, as well as originals written by members of the band.

The first time they invited her to the stage to join them on back ups, her high, pure, perfectly pitched voice transformed the band’s music in an instant into something much richer, much fuller, and much more beautiful.

And then, for the last song of the evening, she soloed on “May the Circle be Unbroken.” Right from the start, when the lyric makes clear the singer is singing about their mother’s death—my daughter’s mother’s death was clearly on her mind, as it was mine and anyone who knew her I’m sure.

It was so perfectly realized—the emotion, the simplicity and clarity of her voice projecting it in such crystal like tones—that I was moved to tears.

But more than that, watching her throughout the evening, so comfortable on stage, singing and swaying to the music, smiling like a child who has found their joy in life, glowing with the satisfaction of doing something you are good at and love to do, it filled my heart to overflowing.

And to top it off, my grandson and youngest son, who are only eight months apart in age, and who earlier at dinner with my old friends had finished before us, asked to be excused, and then gone to sit by the roaring fire in the restaurant’s fireplace to take out two small journals I bought them earlier in the local art store (at their request) and each wrote a poem to the fire and read them to me in the car on the way to see their aunt and big sister sing.

And afterwards, they were so inspired they insisted we go back to my older boy’s and daughter-in-law’s home and set up the drums and amps and guitars and electric piano so that the three of us could jam for a while. Which we did. Me playing for the first time Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” since it was in my mind from the gig where the band had done their version.

My version was much jazzier, and the boys trading off on guitar and drums added a punk element. It was so fulfilling, I thought my heart would burst with overflowing gratitude for having lived to experience it, the whole weekend in fact.

And as we all know from personal experience, a heart overflowing with gratitude is a very happy heart.


Anonymous said...

Dear M:

Sounds wonderful & idyllic; I wish I could have been there.

Leon1234 said...

You have some amazing poetry. I saw you speaking on Hubert Selby Jr biography. I thought I would check out your writings and what I see, is pretty amazing. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully, we can speak sometime.

Unknown said...

Thanks. Wish I had known about the impromtu jam afterwards, I couldn't sleep for beans!!! Surprise surprise. It was a "gas".

AlamedaTom said...

When your children and grandchildren shine, everything else pales.

~ Willy