Today you would be 100 years old! As you liked to say, “Imagine that!”
It is now seven years since you left us and I hope you’re pleased to know that you are remembered with love and appreciation. Every day, I see your photo on my desk and yesterday, played Blossom Dearie’s Dance Only With Me in my Jazz History Class and showed some beautiful photos of you from long ago. No surprise that the tears flowed and that I didn’t feel the need, as so many people do, to say, “I’m sorry.” Why do people say that when they cry in public? Why apologize for allowing yourself to feel the bittersweet blend of grief and happiness that loss brings?
As for the report from Planet Earth, it remains “the best of times and the worst of times.” It is April and Spring has sprung, the renewed hope of flowers joined with the renewed hope of a President with a mind, a heart and the drive to actually work and get the work done. There are signs of greenery poking up through the cracks of the hard concrete of our refusal of justice and you would be amazed to see how Hollywood is changing to include so many people it is has always either entirely excluded or put in small boxes— the black servant, the sexy woman, the immigrant with the funny accent. It is changing and it’s about time. Not that we ever had deep discussions about these things or that you were politically involved. You had your plate full battling your bi-polar condition and recovering from a difficult childhood in a poor Jewish family in Coney Island during the Depression. But somehow you came through it all with a capacity to offer me your unconditional love, which I gratefully accepted, more and more as the years went on.
You’d be happy to know that after cursing you and Dad for passing on bad teeth, I went to the dentist yesterday for a teeth-cleaning and got an A+! And can say, in the words of that forever-imprinted childhood commercial, “Look, Ma, no cavities!” I just made plane reservations to see your two great-grandkids in Portland! And maybe two more from Ginny’s son Ian! How you would have loved these four kids!
And speaking of Ginny, today I’m going up to see her, not only to honor the occasion of our mother’s birthday, but to be interviewed for a film being made about me. Imagine that! Your son might be in the movies someday!
But I’m not holding my breath, not expecting anything beyond the pleasure that someone is interested in what I’ve done with my life and affirmed with that interest that teaching children is a noble profession and teaching music to children brings it up a notch. Giving them the skills, the understandings, the exposure to this exalted human faculty that can bring them comfort in dark times and sing their happiness in good times. Last night I played recordings of some of my favorite jazz songs and jazz singers and marveled at how poor my life would have been without them.
I need to sign off to teach some college kids online for 45 minutes, a one-time flash-in-the-pan that I hope to make as tasty and nutritious as I can. And who knows? For one of them, it might be enough to utterly change their life. One can never tell.
Happy 100th birthday, Mom and know that you are forever loved and remembered.
Your loving son,