St. John Passion

Over the weekend, daughters E and T accompanied me to a concert of Bach’s Passion According to St. John. The Binghamton Madrigal Choir was joined by the choir of Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church, soloists, and an 18-piece orchestra for the performance.

Trinity Church was filled to capacity for the concert. I worked at Trinity for a couple of years in the mid-1980s and sometimes visited there afterward for concerts and services, as my friend Peter Browne served as organist and choirmaster there for many years. The choir stalls had been removed and the organ console moved to the center, a reminder that the organ had recently been extensively rebuilt, as the console used to be fixed in place. The accompanist of madrigal choir played the organ while Peter’s successor played the harpsichord.

Bruce Borton, under whose direction I sang for many years with the Binghamton University Chorus until his retirement, directs the Madrigal Choir and conducted this performance. It was great to see him conducting, even though we could only see him from behind.

The concert was very moving. I especially enjoyed the choral movements. I had had the opportunity to sing the St. John Passion with University Chorus in the ’80s, when we were still under the direction of founding director David Buttolph. I love to sing Bach and was remembering many passages as the choir sang, including how many (terrifying) times the choir has to begin a movement with no introduction, finding their pitches from the prior cadence.

In order to make the concert more easily understood, especially as it was just before Holy Week, the original German had been translated into English. The English translation was occasionally awkward, but it did allow the audience to join the chorus in singing the chorales that appear among the recitatives, arias, and choruses. When the director invited us to sing the chorales, which were printed in the extensive program, some people laughed as though they thought he was joking, but that is how the congregation in Bach’s time would have participated in the Passion.

My daughters and I thoroughly enjoyed singing the chorales. After the concert, the man who had been sitting in front of us turned around and said that someone behind him had a lovely voice. I told him that it was E and T.

As we were putting on our coats, the woman next to me told me that I had a nice voice, too. I know that I will never have as nice a voice as my daughters, especially E who had sung the soprano arias when she was in school, but it was a sweet gesture.

I want to thank all the musicians who made the performance of the Passion possible. It was also special to be able to attend a concert with my daughters. Because the last few years have been so intensive on the caretaking front, I haven’t been able to get out to cultural events very often, so it was extraspecial to be able to experience this together.

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Binghamton Poetry Project Spring 2019

I actually managed to attend all five weeks of Binghamton Poetry Project this semester and decided to submit to our anthology, even though I could not make today’s final reading. I generally post the poems that I put in the anthology after the reading.

The first two poems were actually written in the summer session of 2018, but there is no anthology in the summer, so I decided to publish them this time. A note on “An American Family”:  I want to acknowledge that indigenous/First Nations people are the original Americans; this poem refers to the vast majority of people in the United States who are either descendants of immigrants or immigrants themselves.

Enjoy!
*****
At Thirteen Months

My granddaughter grabs
at the floor lamp again
knowing that it is forbidden
but not that it is dangerous

looking at the adults
in the living room
knowing we will say
no

will pick her up
take her away
set her down
in the middle

of the room
where her toys
are scattered only
to have her rush

back to the lamp
look to make sure
we are watching
repeat the scenario

I finally resort
to what I did
with her mother
take her away

but hold her
in my arms instead
of placing her on the floor
she squirms and cries

a bit but
thirty seconds
is a long time
for a 13-month-old

she toddles back
to toys not lamp
a tear glistening
on her cheek

*****

An American Family

We are an American family
but people stare.

At the park, they assume
my sister is her children’s nanny.

I worry about my brown-skinned
nephews being stopped by the police,
but not my blond one.

Most Americans have roots
in Europe, Asia, or Africa.
Why is it so hard to accept
our family’s roots in all three?

What could be more American?

*****

We always wanted to roast marshmallows

after the hot dogs and hamburgers
had been grilled
and the charcoal glowed
red, under its ashen coat

We cut green sticks
whittling them down
to a point
ready to pierce

the Jet-Puffeds
We didn’t want
them to catch
fire, to burn

black, just a nice
golden brown
soft and sweet
as we three

girls, protected
from charred
bitterness
and burnt tongues

SoCS: more things on my walls

A while back, Linda’s prompt had to do with things that we had hanging on our walls – or art we owned or something like that…

At any rate, I didn’t share some things I have hung that are made of fabric.

In the living room, I have an art quilt of trees that I really love:
tree-quilt.jpg

In the dining room, we have framed some piecework that my husband’s great-grandmother had done. She was planning to make them into a coverlet, but never got around to it. His mom had the top piece in her cedar chest, and we cut it into pieces that worked with frames. The cloth she used was very interesting. It came from sample books from Arnold Print Works, where B’s grandfather worked. I love to look at the different fabric prints of the time. It is a bit strange to see some swastikas, though. The fabric is so old that it was well before the time of Hitler when the symbol was called a Teutonic cross, among other names.
dining-room-quilt.jpg
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “fab”. Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/04/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-6-19/ 

SoCS: dough

Today, E and I took ABC to her first theater experience, a performance of Sesame Street Live. The theme was magic, but a lot of the story revolved around things that turned out to be science. One of those things was making cookie dough out of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar and adding heat to make it into cookies.

My other dough experience of the week was making pie dough for a birthday pie for Paco who turned 94 on Tuesday. I wanted to make him a prune-apricot pie. Unfortunately, it had been a loooong time since I had baked a pie from dried fruit. And I was super tired because I had been up at night with ABC and then had trouble getting back to sleep. I realized too late that I had forgotten the salt in the crust. D’oh! I also didn’t put as much water in the fruit when I stewed it as I should have, so the apricots didn’t soften as much as I would have liked and I didn’t have very much juice to thicken. Still, it all worked out okay as Paco enjoyed it very much.

I thought that doing an unsweetened pie might also appeal to Nana, who hasn’t had much appetite lately, but it didn’t sound good to her. She is still eating breakfast, but usually not much for lunch and supper and she doesn’t like things that are too sweet. One of the hospice rules is that she can eat whatever she wants and we are following that. We have gotten some coffee ice cream to keep on hand because it was always one of her favorites, the bitterness of the coffee cutting the sugar. We’ll see if she wants to try some someday soon.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “dough/d’oh”. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/03/29/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-30-19/

beverage of choice

I have been (perhaps inordinately) happy with my choice of milk lately.

Because the other adults in the house are all lactose intolerant, they drink Fairlife ultrafiltered milk, which has a good taste, unlike milks with lactase added, which I find too sweet.

However, when my doctor recommended that I increase my calcium intake, I decided that I would save the Fairlife for others in the house and choose a less expensive option for me. The problem is, though, that I don’t like to drink milk from the standard plastic jugs that are most common here in the US. It tends to taste a bit plastic-y to me, so I thought I could buy milk in cartons.

This was easier said than done.

It turns out that few milk producers use cartons anymore, but, at our local Wegman’s, I found another solution.
milk bottle

It is so much fun to have milk in a glass bottle, as it was usually distributed before they went to paper cartons. This dairy also vat pasteurizes their milk and even offers non-homogenized milk so that a layer of cream rises to the top of the bottle.

I have chosen to drink 2% milk, as a compromise between those who think one shouldn’t have dairy fat and those who think dairy fat is helpful to your diet.

A bonus is that the dairy is relatively closeby, about 120 miles from where I live, which is close enough to qualify as local in locavore terms.

Another bonus is that the bottles are returned and reused, cutting down on the waste stream or the processing needed to recycle.

The milk is delicious! It somehow seems colder when it is poured fresh from the fridge. Research shows that that is all in my head – or perhaps in my fingers as the difference in conductivity of a thick glass bottle versus a paper or plastic container is going to make the glass bottle feel colder. Glass is also good because it doesn’t transfer flavors into the milk as some plastics can.

I am drinking more milk than I was, which is helping my calcium intake go up. I am also taking supplemental vitamin D, knowing that light can degrade it, although, once I get the milk home, it is in the dark most of the time.

Unless that little light is not going off when the refrigerator door closes…

hospice again

After posting every day in January, I haven’t been posting very much since. Unfortunately, my mom, known here as Nana, over the last few weeks has had increasing symptoms from her congestive heart failure. We have been able to ameliorate some of them, but she is sleeping more and eating less, having more trouble walking and getting short of breath more frequently.

Last week, Nana was approved to go back into hospice care. They will become part of her care team at the skilled nursing unit, so she won’t need to move again and so my dad can hop on his scooter and visit her whenever he likes. [Backstory is that Nana was under hospice care for fifteen months and then de-certified in October. She moved into skilled nursing at their continuing care community, as she could not stay at Mercy House, which is only for those in hospice care.]

We are hoping for as much pain-free and alert time as we can get in these coming weeks. Thank you for all the positive thoughts and prayers you have sent. They help us to stay grounded in this difficult time.

Reading Michelle Obama’s memoir

Since she became a public figure during the first presidential campaign of her husband, I have felt an affinity with Michelle Robinson Obama. While on the surface it would seem that an African-American woman from the South Side of Chicago couldn’t have much in common with a European-American from a tiny New England town, there are a number of similarities. We are close in age, having been born in the last few years of the Baby Boom. I have long felt that we youngest of the Boomers, who were young adults during the Reagan recession when unemployment was high and mortgage rates even higher, are fundamentally different from the elder members of our cohort. Michelle and I are both mothers of two daughters and women who have been blessed with a close and long relationship with our own mothers. We have close women friends and mentors. We are both community-minded, and also recognize the importance of educational opportunity for ourselves and others. We each have a long, loving, and intact marriage. And we are both women of our time, which means we have experienced sexism and the challenge of tending to both our private and public lives.

Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir published late last year, reinforces my sense of her on all these points. She writes honestly and beautifully; I was especially impressed with the way she wrote about her feelings about what was happening and not just the events themselves. She also frequently gives context of what happens either before or later with a particular place or event, such as the changes over time in her South Side neighborhood.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Michelle’s childhood, teen, and college years, as the stories from that time before she was a public figure were mostly new to me. I also appreciated knowing how she felt about many events and causes during the campaigns and her eight years in the White House, as well as her take on the current president.

What was most enlightening to me was hearing how being a black female impacted her life at every stage and added to the pressure to excel and to be an exemplary person at all times. As the first African-American first family, it seemed that every move the Obamas made was scrutinized. I admire that Michelle and her mom, who was also in residence at the White House, were able to protect First Daughters Malia and Sasha from most of the intrusiveness of the press corps so that they could grow up (mostly) out of the public eye.

Many people share my admiration for Michelle Obama and her accomplishments. Her book tour includes venues that seat thousands of people and her book has sold over three million copies, making it the bestseller of 2018.

She can definitely add best-selling author to her already impressive resume.