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Yesterday was the definition of a blustery day. It was rainy and windy and COLD. I had spent the day running here and there; I dropped off Lily and Emmy at their respective schools, I went to my MOPS meeting, I ran errands and picked up Emmy from a playdate. When evening finally came and I had made dinner, the girls were settling down for bed. The last thing I wanted to do was go back outside. However, I had one more obligation left.
I rushed to fill the dishwasher, throw the unfolded laundry off my bed and back into a basket in case I got home late, and put pajamas on Emmy. I smoothed out their unmade beds, which in our morning rush we rarely make. I laid out pajamas for Lily, who was reading with her daddy.
Emmy trailed behind me as I gathered together my shoes, purse and coat. “But I don’t want you to go, Mommy!” Deep inside, I didn’t want to go, either. I gave her a big hug and a kiss.
Gently pushing her toward Ed, I said, “Go read a book with Daddy,” and gave Lily her hug and kiss.
I drove toward church, almost hypnotized by the radio and the drizzling rain. I was tired and really didn’t want to be out and about again.
As I opened the door to the back of the building, I could hear the choir rehearsing already. They finished singing the hymn as I sat down in my spot. Our director stood up and taught us a breathing technique he learned at a conference. “Breath down low,” he said. As I drew in a breath, I felt pinpricks of pain all over my upper body from all the stress I was holding in. They made me not want to breath at all.
But slowly, carefully, I began to take slow, deep breaths and the pinpricks slowly started to ease.
We started to rehearse in earnest, first and second sopranos blending together, then adding altos, tenors and basses. The pinpricks were disappearing.
“Take out your Bach books,” our director said.
Bach. I love singing Bach!
Our voices raised, harmonies flowed, and our praises lifted up above us, along with the last of my aches and pains.
When rehearsal was over, the blustery day had turned into a blustery night. As I drove home, pop songs were playing on the radio. After singing such joyous, praise-filled music, the stuff on the radio seemed lifeless and trite. But that didn’t matter. My heart was full and light again, and I was looking forward to coming home to my husband and kissing my children in their beds.
I’ve always wanted to have an opera moment. The soaring arias, the tragic romances, the swell of the orchestra…what would more romantic than going to the opera with the man that you love?
Unfortunately, getting a man to go to the opera is difficult. Even a man like Ed, who plays the trombone in Sousa concerts and sings baritone in the church choir, did not want to take the love of his life (that would be me) to the opera. Ed won’t even take me to the movies. The opera? Forgitaboutit.
In December, I read a fabulous review of the Lyric Opera’s newest production: Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, never dreaming that I would actually go see it.
It just so happened that shortly after I was lamenting that Ed would never take me to the opera, he happened to hear a radio ad about The Mikado. A couple of years ago, Ed had the opportunity to play the trombone in the pit orchestra for a community Gilbert and Sullivan production. While much of the stories in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas are told in the singing, there is also dialogue. Plus, Gilbert and Sullivan were English, and so their operettas are also in English. Ed discovered that he liked Gilbert and Sullivan.
Gilbert and Sullivan! At the Lyric Opera! Ed definitely won the prize for the perfect and most surprising Christmas gift for his wife — tickets to the Lyric Opera!
I wanted to be prepared to enjoy my gift to the fullest. When I was younger, my sister and I listened and sang a few of the songs from The Mikado, such as Three little maids from school and Tit-Willow, but I wanted to know more. I bought a digital download of the album and put the soundtrack on my pink Sony Walkman. The Mikado started playing in my kitchen all day long.
It wouldn’t have be right to go to the Lyric Opera without a new outfit. On the morning of the opera, I went to Carson’s and found an adorable purple cardigan with ruffles to wear with my gray tweed skirt.
Ed and I drove downtown and had a nice dinner (without children!) before the opera. I wanted to take pictures of the sign and the opera house, but it was a typical winter evening in Chicago: bitterly cold and windy to boot. Ed and I rushed from the restaurant to the Lyric Opera as quickly as we could.
Getting binoculars along with my tickets should have been a hint about the location of our seats, which were in the second balcony. As I eagerly inquired about our spots, the usher told us we needed to go to the sixth floor.
Up the steps we started to walk. We walked up the elaborate staircase to the second floor and looked over the railing at the chandeliers. Below us was the main lobby, where opera goers were enjoying wine before the performance. We continued up the stairs. The soft, cushy red carpeting ended and we continued up the hard, marble steps. All the way up, as far as we could go. To the second balcony we went.
As we entered the balcony, I had a moment of vertigo. The steps going down to our seats were very steep and narrow. It was a looooong way down to the stage!
The Lyric Opera building, however, is fabulous. Although we couldn’t see the faces of the performers very well, the acoustics are incredible. The music was beautiful, the set was amazing, and the performance was simply outstanding. I am not an opera expert, so a review from me would not have much worth. Simply put, Ed and I were awed by the performances of the entire cast.
I simply smiled when Ed declared, “I would definitely do this again!” and my heart said, “Yay!”
Fairy shoes. I thought my mom had fairy shoes. When Mom played the organ, she would slip off her street shoes and put her organ shoes on to play the pedals. Her organ shoes had very pointy toes with tips that curled up slightly. I thought they looked like fairy shoes, although black is not a very fairy-like color.
My sister and I often went with Mom, up to the balcony. We listened to her playing the organ and also her singing. She sang solos often in church, accompanied by my first grade teacher who was the church organist. During one rehearsal, I tripped and fell up the stairs, hitting my head on an old radiator. I cut my head open. As head wounds do, the cut started bleeding profusely. Mom held a wet wash cloth on my head during our 35 mile drive to the nearest emergency room. These were the days of big cars with long bench seats — I sat next to my mom and lay my head down on her lap while my first grade teacher drove. I received a few stitches on my temple that day; the scar is still visible under my hair.
After that trip to the ER, I traipsed up the steps more times than I can count, up to the balcony, to watch Mom play the organ or practice her singing.
Watching an organist play the organ is like watching a carefully choreographed dance. Heels and toes glide gracefully across the pedals; hands and fingers play the keys and change the stops. Many organists also sing along with the hymns they are playing. Organists are the original multi-taskers.
The correlation between church music and organs had been firmly planted in my brain as a little girl. Imagine my amazement when I attended my first major league baseball game and heard an organ playing! Ta-da-da-da-ta-DA! CHARGE! My high school had an organ in the auditorium, and for four years I wondered why. Finally, during baccalaureate, I heard that organ play. And what a surprise to discover my physics teacher was the organist!
After I graduated from high school, I was off to Valparaiso University, where I heard an amazing organist play in the Chapel….
(to be continued)
Most Thoughtful Gift
It’s the classic husband/wife difference. Ed dislikes opera and I like it. This fall, I jokingly said to Ed, “I’m never going to get you to the Lyric Opera, am I?”
A couple of years ago, a friend asked Ed to play his trombone for a performance of Utopia, Limited, and a love for Gilbert and Sullivan was born. When Ed discovered that the Lyric Opera is performing The Mikado, he immediately ordered tickets online. Voila – the perfect gift for his wife! I might have teared up a little bit when I discovered the tickets on Christmas morning.
Most Creative Christmas Decoration
At the beginning of December, I bought a cute decorative sled at Hobby Lobby, along with greens and sparkly doo-dads with which to fill it. The supplies sat on my dining room table for about three weeks. In an attempt to clean off my table, Lily and I finally put our little sled together. We added some lights, and set it on our front porch. It looks quite festive!
Best Mommy Moment
During the Sunday school Christmas service, the preschool and Kindergarten classes sang Away in the Manger. Both Emmy and Lily knew all the words to all three verses, and were amazing little singers! (It’s a mother’s prerogative to brag about her little ones, right?)
Sunday mornings, our church has “coffee and…” after services. When Emmy realized that unlike a Sunday morning, there were no snacks after the Christmas Eve service, she threw a fit. What’s a three year old to do when it’s past her bedtime and she’s hungry? Throw herself on the floor screaming for some snacks, that’s what!
Most Procrastination Award
As you can tell by my sled project, I’m a procrastinator. My Christmas letter is halfway written. It is now an Epiphany letter. Family and friends, I promise you will get my letter before January 6. (I hope!)
A couple of years ago, Ed and I got caught up in a show called Next Great American Band. We were impressed by the winners of the show – a group named The Clark Brothers. This year, they put out their first album and are now called Sons of Sylvia. Ed gave me their CD for Christmas, and I realized I must be listening to it a lot when Lily started walking around the house singing, “Oh, what you waiting for, One more step and you’re out that door….”
What’s your addition to this list?