My wife’s cousin posted a photo of our annual Christmas Carol party with the heading “The Good Ole Days.” Though my wife is relieved not to prepare the house this year (yes, I offer to help, but she has her own way of doing this), I will miss this tradition that we’ve faithfully kept since 1983. Of course, it’s just one of so much we’ve had to let go and truth be told, I’m okay with most of it for now. But such a contrast to last year!
Looking back in my journal, this was the week that my colleagues James, Sofia and I took the Interns who had studied with us for four months to The Christmas Revels, another tradition I have loyally attended each year since 1986. We rehearsed our annual Holiday Plays (each year since 1975) and the 3rd-4th-5thput on a fabulous version of The Phantom Tollbooth, a fitting swan song for this soon-to-be-retired music teacher. With the added perk that with 30 minutes to spare, my daughter Kerala and grandkids Zadie and Malik made it from the airport to see the show! The last day of school, they joined the kids for the traditional ice-skating (also since 1975), watched the 8thgraders perform St. George and the Dragon (since 1986) and participated in the always stirring final Holiday Sing, ending with the angels descending as voices lift in song in those sequences of Glorias.
The next day, I gave a a workshop with my Pentatonics Band at SF Jazz (since 2014), went to a Posada party at a friend’s house (since 1978), the next day a matinee showing with Zadie of It’s a Wonderful Life at the beloved Castro Theater, followed by the Caroling Party that began (as always) with some 40 people warming up our house and chatting in the kitchen to singing around the piano to taking it to the streets to boarding the N-Judah streetcar (while still singing) and then doing drop-in carols at Yancey’s Bar, the Crepevine Restaurant and Pascuale’s Pizza. Next day, we all got into cars and drove down to Palm Springs.
Quite a contrast! No Revels in Oakland, no Holiday Play at the SF School, a Zoom St. George today, no ice-skating, SF Jazz and Castro Theater closed and a neighborhood caroling party that begins and ends on the street with the 15 or so folks who have been singing together since April. Those hundreds of people I rubbed shoulders with, played music with, sang together with, reduced to 2 or 3 each day. It’s a different world indeed.
But of course, we work with what’s in front of us and if we have the good fortune to be spared the direct assault of soldiers, racist police, landlords with eviction notices and a virus entering our body, we can use the opportunity to keep serving life. As the always-eloquent Mary Oliver says:
I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about…
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going? … (From The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac)
Well, if so, here we are. Let’s go.