Itzhak Perlman performed with our local philharmonic orchestra last weekend, and Keats and I attended as we did when he was here in 2014. I think the applause at this concert was the most enthusiastic I’ve ever heard, maybe even more so than the previous performance. Last time, he was able to walk onstage, but this time he entered in an electric chair. He then took up his arm braces and raised himself to standing and climbed the step to his seat on the podium without assistance. It was obviously difficult for him and the applause only strengthened as he made the move from one chair to the other. That simple act of bravery was as beautiful to witness as watching him perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, op.64. (That is a very old video, and not the entire piece, but I love the interview at the beginning.)
The performance was mesmerizing and such a privilege to see. All too soon it ended and we all stood and clapped our hearts out for Mr. Perlman. Finally, it seemed he had something to say and a hush came over the auditorium as he was handed the microphone. After telling us that we had applauded enough for nine curtain calls he told us that there would be an encore. With, I suspect, a sparkle in his eyes he said they would be playing a little known piece by a well-known composer: The theme from Schindler’s List. Surely I wasn’t the only one whose eyes filled with tears. To watch him perform that beautiful, heartbreaking song, my goodness, what a gift. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I’m silly. But maybe you understand. I think we all exited that performance a little stunned.
There was something more than that though, I had this feeling of wanting to recapture something, a more deliberate everyday desire to teach my children to look for the good and the beautiful. And I don’t mean only the easy or obvious, but the beauty that shines forth from creation whether it be the gorgeous, rich color of our Virginia fall, or the beauty that pours from someone’s spirit in a song. I write from the perspective of someone who spent years surrounding herself with ugliness. I don’t want that for my children. My hope is that they would choose beauty, always.
Maybe that all sounds just a little highfalutin or at best naive. But what I mean is that I remember days not too long ago when I had only two little boys. They might wake to meet a table covered in paper and set with trays of watercolors. They would paint while I made breakfast. The days were long and I filled them with nature walks, library visits, and composer biographies on CD. And certainly, I am looking back through rose-tinted glasses. But I know it’s true that our days were characterized by a deliberate pursuit of something good. They were also slower, albeit sometimes painfully so.
I’ll never get those days back, none of us do. Once it’s past, it’s past. And there’s no recreating those days of more than a decade ago in our current household with kids ranging from college student down to a three-year old. Life just isn’t so simple anymore and it’s clearly not meant to be. Time always marches forward and with it change comes. I know what I share here in words, and maybe more so in photographs, illustrates childhood wild and free. We certainly have a good bit of that because I’m good at telling my kids to go play outside and we are privileged to live in a place that allows that. But rest assured that you’re not the only one arguing with your kids about screen time. You’re not the only one too exhausted at the end of the day to remember that you wanted to cover the kitchen table with paper and pull out the watercolors. So what to do with the here and now?
I think it comes back to being deliberate with our days and my priorities. Just as I get my children to Mass and homeschool co-op every week, I have to decide what else I want to be priority. Sharing with my children the good and the beautiful is so very important. Showing them again and again that this life is more interesting than anything they can see on a screen. Even if all I can do is small things to get us all steered toward the dreams that I had for our family when there were just two little boys and I was a young, energetic mother, that is good. I don’t have quite that energy now, so I’ll read aloud more. I’ll play beautiful music and I’ll drop everything to take walks in the woods. I’ll leave the little crockpot out for days for beeswax dipped leaves and not worry when those leaves take over the counter. Tonight, I’ll cover the kitchen table with paper (I buy the rolls from IKEA) and set out watercolors. And on Saturday, we have tickets to take Silas and Job to see a live performance of Peter and the Wolf for Job’s birthday. (That’s an affiliate link to a performance I recently purchased to listen to at home.) I’m not sure that they will appreciate it as much as Seth and Keats would have, but it’s a start. I’m excited!
p.s. Thank you for all of your kind and understanding comments on my last post. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Most of the photos in this post were taken on our 21st wedding anniversary trip to Big Meadows. We visited her little place in the woods and it was really healing. An interesting thing that happened was a vulture flew into the woods right towards us as Larkspur was taking photos of Jonny and me. It was alarming at first, and rather strange, but also felt very special. Encounters with wild creatures always feel that way to me. Though I have to admit, we later witnessed it visiting other people out on the meadow and even next to the visitor’s center. I think it was just hoping for a handout. I’m calling its visit with us special, nonetheless.