last concert for a long time

Earlier this month, the Binghamton University Chorus, with whom I am singing for my 36th year, sang a concert of music related to St. Mark’s in Venice. That means that most of the choral works were written for multiple choruses, so we needed lots of singers to present the music. We were joined by the Women’s Chorus and the Harpur Chorale and Chamber Singers and the University Symphony Orchestra.

I appreciated the opportunity to sing pieces by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Schütz, and Rossi. I love singing late Renaissance/early Baroque music, but hadn’t had much opportunity since I was in college myself. My voice is well-suited to this repertoire and I learned a lot of new vocal techniques from our new director, Dr. Culverhouse.

Our performing forces only had the opportunity to rehearse together in the last week, which was stressful, but the concert itself went very well. Daughters E and T attended, while spouse B and six-month-old ABC listened from the lobby so as not to take the chance of disturbing other patrons. It was also nice to see our director emeritus and former University Chorus members in attendance. Dr. Culverhouse graciously acknowledged our former director and thanked all of us from the stage, which was very sweet.

But now the difficult part…

As I wrote in a prior post, in the reorganization of the choral program, University Chorus has been revamped. We used to be an independent entity composed of community members along with some students and faculty/staff. We are now a supplemental group of mostly community members who will only meet in semesters when the student ensembles need additional voices to sing major works or pieces that require more singers.

So, in January, instead of beginning several months of Monday night rehearsals leading to a spring concert, I’ll be without a chorus to sing with for the first time in decades. In March, I will be singing Brahms’ Requiem at Smith, when some members of the Alumnae Chorus join with the Glee Club and the Penn State Men’s Glee Club. Ironically, we alumnae will be fulfilling a role similar to what University Chorus has become, although without the opportunity to rehearse until the day before the performance. Fortunately, I know the piece very well, so my individual preparation at home will be easy, but the performance weekend will be intense.

It also turns out that one Monday evening per month, I will be able to attend an educational  poetry event at the Broome County Arts Council. Additional skill building and writing time is always good.

What is even more special is that several other long-time community members of University Chorus plan to get together for some Monday evening dinners. After decades of singing together, we don’t want to wait until next fall to see each other again.

We will try to restrain ourselves from breaking into song at the restaurant…

 

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Bolts and biscuits

Because the news has been so disturbing/bad/scary lately, I want to share a couple of nice things that happened today. They are not-earth-shattering, important things, but I have to find comfort where I can.

Today, when I came out of the grocery store, I found that the huge black pickup that I had parked next to had been replaced by a Chevy Bolt! Right next to my kinetic blue Bolt was a red Bolt. They are rare in our area, so it was quite a coincidence to see one parked beside me. I almost left a note on the windshield, but I restrained myself!

Baby ABC, who is almost six months old, continues to amaze us with the rapidity of development and her discovery of new things. Today, she tried teething biscuits for the first time. She enjoyed her first experience with a non-spoonable food. The biscuits are made of rice, banana, and sweet potato, all foods she has already tried, so the main newness of it was the texture. She delighted in chewing off bits, which probably felt good for her gums, and the bits dissolved in her mouth as designed.

Her other new discovery is that she can put her foot in her mouth – literally, not figuratively. She will briefly chew on her toes before letting go of her foot and starting the process over again.

I hope that each of you have some things in your daily life that make you smile, even with the discouraging news lately.

Thanksgiving

Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. We are celebrating with a traditional turkey dinner with two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, baked squash and apples, spiced cranberry-orange relish, and apple and pumpkin pies.

We are doing most of the cooking at our house and bringing everything up to Nana and Paco’s apartment for dinner. In past years, we either hosted them here at our house or joined them for dinner in the dining room at their senior living community, but Nana doesn’t have the energy to be out of the apartment, so we are bringing Thanksgiving to her.

We are very grateful to have Nana and Paco with us for another year of celebration and, for the first time, to have baby ABC with us! She is too young to eat any of the Thanksgiving dishes, but she will certainly bring many smiles to our day.

B and I are also very thankful to have both of our daughters with us. Given that E and ABC will be moving to the UK, possibly in the spring, we are unlikely to have them here at Thanksgiving time again for a long time, if ever. We are hoping that T will find a job in her field that is within driving distance, so we may be able to have her join us for the holiday on a regular basis, but, like everything in the future, it is a bit of a mystery.

But this Thanksgiving, six for dinner – with a baby being bounced on knees and cradled in our arms and playing on her floor quilt – is the perfect number, for which we are all filled with gratitude.

Does anybody really know what time it is?

No, seriously. Does anybody really know what time it is?

Earlier this week, daughter E and now five-month-old ABC returned from visiting spouse/daddy L and his family and friends in London. They were there for three weeks and had lots of good times and adventures and firsts, but crossing five time zones and having daylight savings time shift was a bit steep for a child who had barely been learning that night is supposed to be mostly for sleeping. The flight back was particularly disorienting, as it involved getting up at 4 AM London time and arriving here at 5 PM Eastern Standard Time, which feels like 9 PM in London. ABC decided to only take two one-hour naps in all that time, so both she and E were exhausted. That evening, they did both sleep for a six hour stretch, which was helpful, but one of our goals in the coming weeks will be see if we can get ABC to consistently sleep a long stretch at night and take a couple of daytime naps so there will be some semblance of schedule. There should be no more time zone travel for a while, so here’s hoping.

As we were preparing to change our clocks back to standard time last weekend, which, confusingly, happens in the US on a different weekend than in most of the rest of the Northern hemisphere, there were numerous media stories about proposals for the state of Massachusetts to switch to the Atlantic time zone, which would essentially be like being on Eastern Daylight Savings Time year-round, helpful for them as they are on eastern edge of the zone now, so have early sunsets. However, because they are a small state with five bordering states, they will have to convince the other northeastern states to change time zones along with them, joining the parts of Quebec that are on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. I am not a fan of daylight savings time shifts, so I would favor the change to Atlantic time, even though, being father west, it would extend the time that we have to wake up in the dark.

This week, I also mowed the front lawn and there were a couple of dandelions blossoming. Neither of these things are normal for November in our geography. It’s possible that it is a local sign of being in the Anthropocene, the proposed name for the current epoch of geologic time in which humans have significantly impacted our geologic/atmospheric systems. It does seem, though, that our colder fall temperatures have finally arrived. There had been a heavy frost, so I didn’t mow until late afternoon; still, there was a bit of frost close to the house where the sun hadn’t reached. Maybe now the grass will go dormant and we won’t have to mow again until spring.

This week also saw Election Day. Here in New York, we had only local races and some state-wide referenda, but we are observing an important milestone, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the state, three years before the national amendment was adopted. To celebrate, we had special commemorative “I voted” stickers. A few states had more extensive state votes. The Democrats fared better than expected with exit polls suggesting that some of the voters were motivated by displeasure with how the Republicans are handling government on the federal level. Next year’s midterm elections will be very interesting.

I submitted my poems for the Binghamton Poetry Project’s fall anthology this week. Our reading will be on November 18th and the anthology will be available to us. I will post the poems here that weekend. All three were written from prompts during our sessions and all three deal with issues from the past, including one about my friend Angie. You can read a prior poem about Angie here.

All of these events have had me pondering time and the meaning of time, but none as poignantly as having my mom, known here as Nana, under hospice care. While I know intellectually that the future is not promised to any of us, dealing with end-of-life care issues makes the finite nature of our lives more concrete. It helps me to appreciate more the little joys that we can still share – bringing her a fresh batch of lemon pizzelles –  enjoying hot soup at lunchtime or Sunday dinners together – visits with my sisters, my daughters, and especially ABC, her first great-grandchild.

Watching Nana and ABC together sharpens my sense that there really is, as the adage says, no time like the present.

 

scooter

My dad, known here at Top of JC’s Mind as Paco,  bought a new vehicle this week, his first indoor scooter.

With Nana (my mom) under hospice care at their apartment, Paco has been walking down to the dining room and offices of the retirement community several times a day to get menus and pick up food. (The community center is in an adjacent building to the apartments connected by a passageway with lots of windows to take in the view.)

Although Paco is 92, he still walks well without the support of a cane or walker, but he does sometimes get pain in his hip from bursitis. Lately, his hip was bothering him on his evening trip to pick up supper, so he looked into getting a scooter.

I brought him to the medical supply store on Thursday to look at the floor models. He chose a simple three-wheeled design that is compact enough to fit beside the little table between the kitchen and living room, close to an electrical outlet.

It won’t need to be plugged in very often because it can go five miles on a single charge!

The scooter was delivered yesterday and spouse B, daughter T, and I went up yesterday evening to watch him take it on its inaugural trip through the hallways. It’s easy to control and has a tight turning radius, as well as a reverse setting, so he should be all set for the dinner run tonight.

He is looking forward to surprising his friends with his new ride!

 

changing constellations

It’s been a bit hard to keep track of who is in residence at our house.

Starting in mid-September with B out-of-town on business for two weeks, we have fluctuated between being a household of three, four, or five.

I was away at my MASS MoCA residency, about which there are many posts, and returned just in time for B to fly to Missouri to meet up with daughter T, whose job as a crew chief for a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants had concluded.

They drove back in T’s car and we had a week together before daughter E and granddaughter ABC embarked on ABC’s first trip to the UK to visit her daddy (our son-in-law L) and his family and friends, most of whom had not yet met ABC in person.

It’s pretty adorable to have a four-month-old with both US and British passports off on such a big adventure! E and L have been sending lots of pictures and videos to us, which we have been sharing with Nana and Paco. It keeps us all from missing E and ABC too much, although it is also a bit of a trial run for the big move sometime next year when E’s spousal visa is approved and she and ABC relocate to the UK.

I’ll think about that more later…

Meanwhile, we are waiting to be a household of five again, for most of November and into December, when we hope that L will be able to join us for Christmas.

At least, that is the plan, although T is job hunting and could need to leave the area again…

If there is one thing I have learned in recent years, it is that change is inevitable and often not under my control, so I will adjust as needs dictate.

From the current household of three,
JC

 

 

Nana and mocha

I apologize, dear readers, for my recent absence from Top of JC’s Mind. I’ve been trying wildly to catch up on what I missed being away for a week while dealing with an avalanche of current happenings. This post begins an effort to bring you up to date.

While Nana had a bit of an acute sickness just as I returned home, when that cleared, she regained a bit of her old energy, though, as expected with her level of heart problems, not enough to be out and about.

Still, it is heart-warming to speak to her on the phone and hear her sounding a bit like she did for decades when we used to talk every morning while I was on my treadmill and she on her stationary bike.

Her appetite has picked up, too. We are still keeping her supplied with lemon pizzelles, a favorite treat she enjoys daily. She has also been eating coffee ice cream on a regular basis.

On my first day back in North Adams, I went to Moulton’s Spectacle Shoppe to ask them to hang a poster for our poetry reading and to ask if they had any mocha sauce in the refrigerator. Yes, that seems like an odd thing to ask in an eyewear store, but the Moulton family is heir to the mocha sauce recipe that made Apothecary Hall’s soda fountain a regular destination for area folks. The Moulton’s used to sell the sauce in their general store on Main Street, but, since that closed, they have made a batch monthly and sold it at their eyeglass store – for those who knew to ask for it. They didn’t have any on hand, but agreed to make a batch in the next week so that I could pick some up before I had to leave town.

I was thrilled to be able to present my mom with mocha sauce for her coffee ice cream. She even sprinkles on chopped nuts, which was traditional for Apothecary Hall sundaes. Paco has been enjoying some mocha sundaes, too, although I think that Nana probably eats them a bit more often than he.

And, yes, I have written a poem about mocha sundaes, which I read when the Boiler House Poets gave their reading on October fourth.

There is a new poem drafted about this recent mocha experience, which I am hoping will make its way into the collection, which is waiting patiently in my google docs for a major re-organization.

She says, mentally eyeing her calendar…