Monday, August 18, 2014

The Year of Mourning

We've talked about it before, ritualized grief. It is healing, if executed well. And at the end of an official year (especially if you do it the Jewish way) one feels different, as if a millennium has passed.

We're returning from Ruby Falls, a tourist trap in Tennessee. I had the front seat of the van on the way out, but am in the back now, hosting three very little, dirty and exhausted children. They are engrossed in movies. I can stretch out my legs. Not a bad way to travel. Gazing out the window, road trip lyrics come to mind:
Let us be lovers,
We'll marry our fortunes together.
I've got some real estate here in my bag.
So we bought a pack of cigarets.
And Mrs. Wagner pies,
And we walked off to look for America.
America, the Bookends Album
Hard to get the Bookends song out of my head. Now you've got it. That's what we do in my family, pass off songs.

My son asked if we could take a short vacation, come for a visit this summer. So just before the year of mourning ended, FD and I got on an American Eagle jet and took photos of clouds, seeing clouds from both sides now, obviously. Changing the song works, too.

But only one  emotional snapshot stands out from that vacation.

The children have personal entertainment consoles;  The Lego Movie and Lilo and Stitch play on and on. I look out the window and watch the landscape, hoping for an occasional rooster or horse. The Paul Simon song attacks and I want to sing but can't remember the words, immediately Google them on my phone.

A patient had just complained about her niece and an internet addiction. More accurately, a media addiction. And I think: My grandchildren will have to wait until they have children of their own to even  begin to look for America, feel the sensory joy of looking beyond their phones, their tablets. They will have to take their kids on road trips. Drive.

But maybe not. My kids are pretty conservative, don't even let the little ones have email accounts. I understand you get one now at your bris.

So I sing softly to myself, thinking it odd that during the first year of mourning, if you observe those Jewish rituals, singing is permitted, but not listening to music. Certainly not live music. Recorded music is discouraged, too, really. Paul Simon whispers in my brain and there's no need to adjust the volume, no headset.

So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine, and the moon rose over an open field.

Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain
Why forbid music during a year of mourning?

Too happy, maybe. But until it ends we don't understand the real reason. After a year of sensory deprivation, at the end of that season of grief, the anticipation, the desire, the need to live is indescribable. And when you finally hear the sound of music, you cry.  It is as if life begins again.

As it should. That is the point. (We only grieve this long for parents, by the way).

So picture me the last evening of that season, a Thursday night. I have invited guests for a Friday night dinner, cooked a few hours. It is finally dark. Pitch black. FD comes home, has a quick bite to eat. I am in a chair, exhausted, feet up, watching my fish swim in the aquarium. He asks me if I want to hear what he's been working on. (He is a classical pianist). I thought you would never ask.

For a year he practiced on a keyboard, headphones on, and all I heard was the banging of keys, no notes. So now he plays the scherzos so that I can hear them loud and clear, explains each one. Then we listen to yet another on YouTube, one that he hasn't learned because it hasn't been transcribed for piano. He's working on the transcription. He tells me that a scherzo is a musical joke. The thought makes me smile. Weird Al has nothing on a scherzo.

The next day I am texting the kids, asking them for the names of popular songs that I missed during the year. I use itunes (forgetting all about Pandora) and listen, wondering if I even like the choices. As I dice onions, the enormity of it all, the trance-like feel of transition, works its effect. Guests! Fun! Friends. For a year socializing has been limited to family, primarily, and a few couples, one at a time, let's not over do it, very few. Certainly nothing remotely like a party. Tears applaud this moment, make it memorable.

My grandson would videotape the scene: An aging female seeking show tunes on her iphone, crying as she dices onions. Funny, no?

But it is sad. Setting the table, it is clear to me that my mother would love the china, the silver, the royalty of this Sabbath meal especially, for her touches are on everything. She is everywhere.
Waterford rose bowl


Then at night, after the dinner, a dream, a disturbing dream. She is alive, but not really alive, wearing a pale green dress that I don't remember, but her style (and green is a good color on her, but not this time). She is thin and disabled, and it is my son's wedding, which she missed due to her illness. But she's there now, and I have lost her and am in a panic trying to reconnect. She is in a carriage, or a rickshaw, on her way to the synagogue where we are hosting a huge celebration after services, the occasion of the day. I miss the whole thing trying to find her a lemonade.

Not a good dream, and it cast a pall over the weekend. We don't lose bad dreams easily, and even though it was nice to see her, it wasn't a picnic. I blame the short glass of excellent red wine, a Gallil Mountain, Yiron 2010. My guests chose well, but wine can be dangerous, even in small quantities.

The next night we dress up again. FD has tickets for Brigadoon at the Goodman Theater downtown, and from the very first note, the voices so clear and high, so strong and powerful; the scenery, brilliant; the story, fanciful, I am lifted there, to Brigadoon. A musical is surreal under any circumstances, which is why we love them, but to hear the songs that Andrew Lloyd Webber pirated (you're undoubtedly familiar with Phantom), and gaze closely at classically trained dancers up on their toes, stepping, twirling, skirts flowing, everyone smiling on stage, in the audience, everywhere.

Quite a sensory whirl.

We meet a few friends at the theater, too, also odd, because who goes to see Brigadoon? (People a bit older, that's who). Our friends go to the theater often and suggest we try the Lincolnshire if we haven't already. Very reasonable, wonderful productions. My parents had season tickets, I say, but we never took them up on their offer to go; the drive is a little far. Now I want to go. I am becoming my mother, I laugh.

Brigadoon-Goodman Theater
One of the women notices and compliments my beaded bag.  She has one like it, her grandmother's. She is nostalgic, her eyes look up and to the left, remembering.

My bag was my mothers, naturally.

therapydoc


1 comment:

Mound Builder said...

Many associations... Brigadoon was something my mother loved and we had a record of the music when I was growing up. My first dog was named Brigadoon when we got him, though we changed his name. And interesting what you say about not listening to music. Yesterday while stopped at a traffic light there were several cars nearby all playing radios, windows open. I'm not complaining about this, was only noticing. And thinking. Almost every place I go there is music (grocery stores, offices, department stores, events of all sorts, etc.). Seems like people don't like leaving empty spaces, where you can hear the sounds that happen naturally around you. So I'd been thinking of what it was like before radio, before music was ubiquitous... hearing music for worship or for some other special occasion, seems like it would make the music more special. And maybe it would allow the natural sounds (birds and insects and the wind) also to be more special.