Saturday, July 4, 2015

Letter to My Grandson

My dear Malik,

Almost four years ago now, I was in Lisbon, Portugal teaching an Orff workshop when the news came of your sister Zadie’s birth. Imagine my joy knowing I had a grandchild! I shared the good tidings with the teachers in my class and they joined me in my moment of happiness. That night I went to a Fado music club and wrote a letter to the granddaughter I hadn’t met yet, promising to take her to Lisbon and hear some Fado music sometime in the years to come.

And now I am in Sirince, Turkey, again teaching an Orff workshop, when the news finally arrived of your arrival! Again, I shared my joy—and relief—with the beautiful teachers here. Believe me, Malik, I would have been so happy to meet you the moment you arrived, but you had other plans. You were due on June 22nd and your grandmother and aunt and I were there in Portland by the 20th to greet you. But day after day, you refused to leave your comfortable home and finally, I had to leave to come teach this course. If I was easily replaceable, I would have stayed in Portland, but in this case, people were counting on me and with your Mom, Dad, Grandma, sister and others to welcome you, I knew you’d be fine.

But in the midst of teaching, I was rushing into the local village to check e-mail to see if you had arrived yet. Believe me, you kept us all wondering and anxious. But finally, the good news came and I could breathe more freely. I didn’t get to see Zadie until she was 5 weeks old and it will be about the same for you, so at least there’s some consistency there! And here is my promise to take you to Turkey sometime in the future and sit in my little café spot enjoying some spinach crepes and fresh orange juice and ice cream—of course!— for dessert. Is it a deal?

Meanwhile, welcome to our loving family. I have to confess it is very exciting to have a grandson after two daughters and a granddaughter. It will be new territory for me! It’s not likely that I’m going to take you fishing and certainly not hunting and we probably won’t stick our heads under a car hood or build things together, all those old, archetypal, male-bonding activities. But I’ll be happy to throw a ball with you if my shoulder stops hurting, shoot baskets, go to a ball game or two, watch the Super Bowl together and shout at the TV, certainly hike and camp. I’ll be thrilled to sit and watch my favorite old movies with you, play any kind of music, cook together, go to a jazz concert.

Who knows, maybe we’ll be out on the streets together marching for social justice and racial equality (sigh) or making phone calls for some promising Presidential candidate. Of course, I’ll read books to you every chance I get and then be thrilled to discuss books with you when you get older. (Maybe I’m naïve talking about books and TV’s and jazz concerts as a certainty in the future, but we’ll see. ) I hope we can travel, with or without an Orff workshop at the other end, and I can show you my favorite old spots—Salzburg, Madrid, Rio, Istanbul, Kerala, Bali, Kyoto and many more. And maybe try out some new places as well.

And then, of course, long summer days in Michigan, climbing the Sugar Bowl dune, swimming in the back and front lakes, the Baldy hike, canoeing, sunsets over Lake Michigan, Boggle games, the Cherry Bowl Drive In, biking around Upper Herring Lake. Won’t that be fine?

First children, and then grandchildren, are the chance for us old folks to relive our childhoods, to share the great pleasures of our life and learn some new ones as well. Between jazz improvisation, traveling and teaching, a life with children, I’ve managed to keep things in my life feeling fresh and flowing, but we’re all in danger of getting stale and habitual and predictable and there’s nothing like a grandchild to perk us up! I’m excited to see how you will be different from Zadie beyond the obvious gender difference (not a slight one!) and look forward to being as much a part of your life as I can.

So welcome, little Malik, you are wanted and already loved. See you in five weeks!

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