Do you realize how close we came to experiencing a major old fashioned school-closing travel-banning blizzard this past week? Had the temperature been five or six degrees colder Wednesday, all that rain would have been all that snow pushed around by two days of 50 mile an hour window-rattling winds. Never sure whether or not to say wind..singular..or winds..plural. Trobec says winds, I believe, but there is only one wind right? Oh, wait what about that old folk song, “Four strong winds that blow lonely”? Does it matter? No it does not. The point is, I’m awfully glad not to be shoveling.
It was a grand week for Linda and me. (Or is it I?) We attended daughter Suzan’s 50th birthday party in Lincoln and it was just marvelous. It wasn’t a surprise party but I was certainly surprised when we walked in..pleasantly surprised. Shocked really. Granddaughter, Zoey..who’s 14..has been involved in music for the last several years..choosing to play oboe and viola. It’s been so much fun to watch her progress on each. We’re always treated to a private concert whenever they come for a vist. She has shown lots of promise..especially on the viola.
But getting back to the surprise.
As we entered the big party room, I heard music coming through the crowd ..sweet music with sweet young voices singing “Over the rainbow.” As I made my way over to find who was responsible, this is what I saw.
It was Zoey and two of her school mates. Not only was she singing like Judy Garland, she was playing the ukulele. The UKULELE? When in the heck did she learn to play that? And she was Good too..real good fingering and strumming complicated chords with ease. I was stunned to learn that she’d been taking lessons at school since Easter..the last time we’d seen her. I couldn’t help but remember the little plastic ukulele I received for Christmas when I was about ten. After learning how to properly tune the four strings (My Dog Has Fleas) I practiced and practiced discovering a love for making music that changed my life and continues to this day.
But the evening held another musical surprise.
Zoey’s mom eventually asked her to bring out the viola.
Now, Suzan has sent me short clips of Zoey’s recital performances and it was fun to hear that she had advanced to more difficult pieces and started incorporating vibrato with her left hand on the strings. But I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next.
After her last private concert in our living room Easter Sunday, I requested that she learn a favorite tune for grandpa; “Ashokan Farewell”..the hauntingly beautiful violin theme written by Jay Unger and Molly Mason used extensively throughout Ken Burns marvelous PBS documentary, “The Civil War.” I even found the music on-line and sent it to her.
Well, I was enjoying (marveling really) at how good she had gotten in the past six months as she played a couple of complicated pieces. Then my jaw dropped. I knew from the first three notes what was coming. “Ashokan Farewell!” I can’t tell you how amazing it was. As her bow crossed the strings and her left hand coaxed out every note perfectly, she swayed and her eyebrows lifted just like all great fiddlers do when they actually feel the music.
I was so delighted and proud at what I was hearing, I giggled and wept simultaneously.
She has kindly consented to playing that song again and again when they’re home for Christmas and thought it would be okay if grandpa accompanied her on guitar. So the pressure is on for me to learn the chords and adjust to the pain in my fingertips until calluses develop. It’ll be worth it, though and I can’t wait.
Move ahead a few days. We’re at the new Susan B. Anthony elementary school to see and hear great granddaughter, Ella perform in concert..both with the band (she’s just taken up tenor saxophone) and in the honor chorus. I remember when my own girls played and sang in those early school concerts and, like the band in “Music Man” parents have a way of filtering out any sour notes..hearing only the unbelievable talent of their own kids. Such it was for Ella the other night as the band played their three or four two and three- note songs.
But there was no need for imagining when she joined her peers in song.
They were just wonderful.
Seeing Ella up there singing “You’ve got a friend in me” from “Toy Story” I lost it again.
She is such a remarkable kid. I can’t help bragging on her.
Finally, if you’ll indulge me for one more.
There was music surrounding our other great grandchild this past week. The birthday song for Jack..who turned a year old on Wednesday.
Both Linda and I are holding back tears here as well..not over the song but because he and his parents, Tucker and Julia, will be moving to Colorado soon.
Before leaving, though, they gave US a wonderful birthday present.
Jack was baptized during a special ceremony at Hartford Methodist Church.