Friday, October 02, 2009

Birthday Reflections

There are two times every year when I reflect on my life, values, goals, weaknesses, desires, and priorities. One is, of course, on December 31. The other is September 27, my birthday. Hence, the following list of things I have learned in the last 12 months:

1. I don’t want to play for any more weddings. Most weddings are lovely, but the hassle of accompanying them on piano or organ is just no longer worth the trouble. I receive much more pleasure being just a guest and enjoying the festivities, rather than waiting for cues from the minister, wondering if the piano is in tune and if I have good lighting, trying to lengthen or shorten pieces according to the wedding party movements, and other distractions. I might consider singing for weddings in the future, as that is not so time-consuming, but I think I will retire my accompanist availability.

2. Speaking of singing, I have learned this year that I had no idea how important it was to me. I started singing at an early age, and my father, a choir director, roped me into singing in the choir at age 12, and I’ve been singing ever since. I’ve sung in churches, schools, nursing homes, and countless other places. I’ve sung with the choruses of two operas. I’ve sung as the mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors. I’ve sung in church dinner theaters. I’ve sung solos, duets, trios, quartets, in small choirs of 6 and larger choruses of more than 200. I’ve sung at weddings (including my sister’s) and funerals (including my father’s). I’ve sung in French and Italian. I’ve sung torch songs sitting on a piano in a sequined purple evening gown (see picture above, courtesy of the best photographer Memphis ever had, Earl Major), and I’ve sung stirring Mozart and Handel arias on Easter Sunday. I’ve always taken singing for granted...that is, until I had my thyroid surgery in August. I panicked when I tried my first note after the surgery, and even though the surgeon assured me that my voice would come back as the swelling went down and my tissues healed, I wondered what I would do if it didn’t. I can’t imagine a life without singing. As I gradually get my singing voice back, I think I will never take it for granted again.

3. I’ve learned if you have specialized shoes for playing the organ, and you don’t use them for over a decade and store them in a plastic bag which at times has sat in a storage unit between moves between houses, they will mildew and you have to throw them out.

4. I’ve learned that my electronic piano that I’ve had for 20 years sounds a lot worse than I thought it did, thanks to a week of playing my sister’s perfect, shiny baby grand piano. The comparison is simply incredible.

5. I’ve learned that instead of printing out family photos at Walgreen’s here in Maine, sticking them in an envelope and taking them to the post office to be mailed to my mother in Collierville, Tennessee, I can upload them to Walgreen’s online, pay for them, and request that they be printed out at the Walgreen’s store in Collierville, where my sister will kindly pick them up for her!

6. I’ve learned never to trust a corporation, specifically a credit-card company, because they will stick it to you no matter how good and reliable a customer you are.

7. I’ve learned that my sister Joy has more generosity, patience, and strength - and our mother has more resilience and determination - than I ever thought possible. For Joy to take our mother (and her dog) into her home after Mom’s wreck and surgery demonstrates a love that knows no bounds. Joy had to turn her dining room into a hospital room, put up with potty chairs and wheelchairs and sleepless nights and everything else to take care of Mother. For our mom to come through the trauma of an MVA at 85 years old, hip and ankle surgery, constant pain, immobility, and having to leave her own home and her independence behind - without giving up and staying in bed the rest of her life - awes me. She was determined to get out of that wheelchair and walk again, and now even does light household chores. What remarkable role models my family has in these two strong women!

8. I’ve learned that having grandchildren is fantastic, but having a granddog is kind of fun, too!

9. I’ve learned that remembering my age is much easier when I’m 55 than when I was 54. Those increments of 5 really help.

10. I’ve learned in reading a book about the beginnings of American exploration that Hernando Desoto joins many of his fellow conquerors/explorers in having carrying out horrible atrocities and now I wonder why they honored him with the Hernando Desoto bridge over the Mississippi River at Memphis. We have peculiar heroes.

10. Finally, I was astonished that America in my lifetime would elect a man of color as President of the United States.

So this is what I have learned over the past 12 months. Life is certainly full of learning experiences, and I'm sure there will be many more to come!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You have such a gift for words. Most of what you write I can agree with. You still have the treasured gift of your Mom, I lost my Mom 9 years ago. I lost my Dad 11 years before I lost my Mom.

My sister is my best friend, and she too took care of our MOm, as i lived so far away.

I so enjoy reading your blog. It reminds me of what I have, what I used to have, what I need to have, what I need to appreciate and what I should appreciate.

Love, Chris MTA