So today I put my younger daughter onto yet another plane for yet another great adventure — this one half-way around the world. We said goodbye at security, hugging, hugging, hugging, then hugged once more before she handed her passport and boarding pass to the agent. Then she slowly progressed through security, turning and waving, turning and waving, turning and waving. I worked hard not to break down in tears, and I succeeded.

I’ve written before about the durable, flexible umbilical cord that links me forever to my children. It’s a bond I can barely understand, much less describe. Right now, that red, ropy tether is stretched somewhere over the Pacific. I know it won’t snap. It’s made of tough stuff, supple and stubborn as it was when it fed her in the womb. My womb. The nest that hatched three children — weird, when you think about it — and dropped them into the world. Plop! Plop! Plop! A soft landing for each of them, straight into those striped white swaddling blankets found in every hospital.

I look at them now with wonder and gratitude: wonder that I had something to do with them; gratitude to God, their late dad and the mystical happenstance of timing for bringing them into my life. Had they been conceived one second earlier or one second later, they’d be different people: that, too, is weird when you think about it. Weirder still when I remind myself, as I often do, that my sister’s suicide in 1992 first inspired me to get pregnant. If she hadn’t died, Chris and I might have postponed baby-making for another couple years, and who knows which babies might have popped out then? Weird weird weird. When it happened, and she downed all those pills in her bedroom, I was clobbered by grief and confused by a universe that would snatch such a loving soul so soon. I wanted to fill it with another. It was that simple. I wanted someone new to love, some new life to cherish in the contorted face of death. This was a primal urge: procreate, woman! How better to shake my fist at the reaper than to usher in new life?plane view

And so I did, and there they are: my three enduring gifts. Some days, at my lowest, I wonder if I’m serving God as I’m supposed to, if I’m living and loving as I’m called to. I wonder about my failures as a human being, my woundedness, the way I strive but stumble through this world. I am not perfect. I try and fail, I love and lose, I grapple with my own pain in ways that end up hurting others. But when I look at my beautiful children, and I remember their beautiful father — so strong and passionate and compassionate and constant and loving and giving and good — I realize I did something right. Or something right happened to me.

Waving goodbye to my intrepid middle kid this morning, I said thanks to God and the whims of fate that timed my children perfectly. They are my three miracles. I’m grateful for them, and for everyone else I’ve been blessed to love in this world. For love has its own logic. Love has its own laws. At this moment, my love defies gravity and carries my daughter across the ocean to the vast unknown. I’m with her and I’m here, I’m earthbound and I’m flying, I’m nervous and I’m joyous all the same. Weird.



put another nickel in

Tonight, I announced to my son that I was heading upstairs to blog. (And while we’re on the subject, ISN’T “BLOG” AN UGLY WORD? It sounds like a swamp monster hocking up phlegm. BlogBlogBlogBlogBlog.)

He asked: What are you gonna blog about?
I replied: I have noooo idea.
He said: You should blog about something that makes you happy.
I responded: Hmm. Yes. What makes me happy?
He replied: Music.

I love this kid. I mean, OF COURSE I love this kid, he’s, like, my son, but in that moment I loved him for how well he knew me and how matter-of-factly he deployed this knowledge to remind me — as though I needed reminding — of the rejuvenating blast I get from something as nebulous, permanent and necessary as air. I would not technically die without music, but I can’t imagine how life would proceed without it. Were I deaf, I would unspool it in my mind and sing along: Stevie Wonder songs. Shostakovich scherzi. The Tin Pan Alley that Daddy squeezed out on accordion, the Kreisler that Mama played on fiddle, the Chopin that Lucy coaxed from the piano.

As a kid I was surrounded by music and made a little bit of it myself, though mine was always the least. I sang here and there. Took voice lessons in high school. I scratched at the violin, sawed, flailed, practiced fitfully, struggled constantly with Not Being Perfect and eventually quit, never hearing in the sounds I made on my instrument anything similar to what my mother and sister made on theirs. It didn’t occur to me that I could play and enjoy myself the way Daddy played and enjoyed his time with his squeezebox or the piano — hunched over, blissed-out and slamming away. There was never any intrusion of ego or embarrassment at Not Being Perfect. He honestly didn’t give a damn. Who cared about Perfect! Who cared about ego! Making music was SUCH HUGE FUN!

Sometimes I wonder if that’s what made him a great critic in the classical realm: music meant more to him than the flawless ordering of abstract symbols into sound and silence. He wrote about it because he loved it, because he loved performers who loved it, his wife included. Because the music itself was, for him, a form of love, too.

Talk about nebulous. Talk about necessary. Though my father didn’t believe squat about God or an afterlife (not until his deathbed, when he saw and spoke with his departed eldest daughter), he believed in music. We all did — though I was the lollygagging convert of the bunch. I loved it as much as any of them, but I didn’t understand just how critical a role it played in the formation and proper maintenance of my psyche.

Then, in my early 20s, I started taking lessons again. Paying for them myself, I started practicing. I started playing in a community orchestra. I started playing string quartets with friends. I started caring less about Not Being Perfect and more about Just Being Better so I could have more fun. And it was SUCH HUGE FUN.

Eight or so years ago, I joined up with friends and neighbors to for evenings of rock and folk tunes, which had me noodling around by ear and exercising a whole new set of musical muscles. I joined my church choir; I joined my church band. After my husband died in 2011, I took up jazz violin lessons and ventured into that rich, sexy, scary musical realm. Last weekend, I sight-read standards with a friend at piano, drumming up improvised harmonies here and there. And it was SUCH HUGE FUN.

When I make music, I lose myself. I stop worrying about whatever I think I need to be worrying about. Music demands such focus, such consideration, such careful regard, such love, that I can’t focus or consider or regard or love anything but the notes on the page and in the air around me. I listen to them; I listen to my fellow players; I listen to the humming fifth between my A and D strings, and to the mystical, powerful, pulsating throb of one small piece of the cosmos suddenly ringing with joy. My son was right. It makes me happy.