Monday, November 5, 2007

What goes around...

About three and a half years ago my husband and I went back to New England to celebrate our 20th anniversary. While there, we shared a pancake breakfast with my old friends David and Susan, who live in a beautifully restored white clapboard home in Vermont overlooking one of the prettiest covered bridges in the state.

While in their home, I kept being drawn to this one corner, and finally I got out my camera and photographed it. Something about the light and the emptiness of it appealed to me, and I've kept the photo all these years since, not knowing exactly what to do with it but loving it too much to discard it.

Two days ago while waiting in the ferry line after a long day of driving home from the San Juan's, I got a phone call from my husband asking me to "call this number." I called the number and it turned out to be a cellphone belonging to Elizabeth, the now-29-year-old daughter of my friends David and Susan in Vermont. Elizabeth, who is now a jazz trombonist and vocalist, was in Seattle (she actually lives in NYC now) and was calling to invite me to a concert the next evening at the loft apartment of a friend of hers. And, coincidentally, it would be her 29th birthday party, so we would be served birthday cake after the concert.

Now that our girls are off and away, we can DO exciting things like going to Seattle on the spur of the moment to hear a friend's daughter play jazz, so we did. And just before we left, I thought, I should take her a birthday present.

Well, you can see where this is going, of course: remembering this photograph, I decided to print it off and matt it for her; wrapped it up in birthday paper, and handed it to her at the beginning of the evening. I titled it "Remembrance," and said nothing to explain; she set the wrapped present aside and continued to greet her other guests.

While Chris and I were setting up our chairs, a man reached out his hand to me and said, "Diane?" And to my surprise and joy, it was an old and dear friend who, like Elizabeth's father, had been a bass player in my ex-husband's jazz band, some 30 years ago. I was delighted to see him again after so many years, and even more delighted to be introduced to his lovely wife, Diane, who, as it turns out, would be playing piano for Elizabeth's concert.

Elizabeth sang and played beautifully, some old standards and some new compositions of her own, and one song written by a guitar player friend of hers, to which she had written the words. The words spoke of that moment in a relationship when two begin to consider becoming three, and I thought back to the time when her parents were contemplating that decision -- and she, of course, had been the result.

Elizabeth looks a lot like her mother did at the same age, all those years ago, and I could see her mother in her face and form, but I could also see her mother's gift for mothering: raised by Susan, Elizabeth had grown to be an open, confident and engaging woman with a clear sense of her own gifts and passion and calling, but not in a superior or managing sense, just an acceptance.

Her last song of the evening was Bye, Bye, Blackbird, and after she sang the chorus she played a solo on the trombone, and I could suddenly see her father soloing on trombone on the same tune, all those years ago. So it was a wonderful evening of circles, of re-connecting with the past and seeing the promise of the future.

On the ferry on the way home my cell phone rang again, and it was Elizabeth. She had just opened my present, and was astonished. "When did you take this? she cried, "this is SO COOL!" And I thought, yes, that the evening and I had been able to give a connection to her past just as she and the evening had given me a connection to mine. There is a strong sense of joy now welling up in both of us, expressed by her in her beautiful music, and by me in my photo, and in being able to share this story with you. However far we each have traveled, that connection to joy remains nourishing to us both. And for that, I am most grateful.

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