Friday, March 22, 2013


(eulogy for my mother 1947-2013)

When music played, she would look out a window, see tree branches swaying, or people walking, and note the choreography. I would send her recordings of my music, and she would listen to them, again and again and again, and she would treasure them as if they were her grandchildren, and play them with pride for friends, and memorize their every vibration, and know them as though she herself had written them - and hadn't she? with her own body and her own soul, thirty-six years ago - and tell me that she heard great choirs singing my work, she would orchestrate greater versions of it than I could imagine, in the time it took for a bar of a piece to play, she would orchestrate lavish versions of the music and the production and the publicity, she would describe the immense productions, already clear in her mind, the dancers, the elaborate set designs, the lighting plans, the colors swirling and telling stories within stories in their intermingling. And her orchestration would extend to the accolades and success it would bring to her son, because hard work and risk-taking will always bring great rewards, how it would permit me to travel and buy a home and raise a family, and how that family would thrive and honor the toiling and risks and sacrifices of her dear parents, parents whose adventures she memorialized with such reverence that their very kisses to each other became legends as sacred as any other to the ears of her children. She would hear a note and it would extend from a fine, small molecule of air that she would capture gently between her thumb and one of her long, brightly painted fingernails, out in a flourish full of grace, to the heavens, the stars, through whole solar systems, to the furthest reaches of being itself, and with a wave of her head and an "ah" or two clicks of her tongue, she would catch herself, remembering something, the corporeal, the belly, she would ask "is it lunchtime?" and always, always, always, before she would eat she would offer you up the world to fill your own belly, and if the world didn't satisfy you she would offer you another, or another, and if three whole worlds would not satisfy you she would find another again, anything, and what else, and you would have ice cream covered in hot fudge and whipped cream for dinner, or a spectacular meal of many courses made from scratch, or your choice, anything you wanted, of the town’s finest dining, there is no modesty in matters of the belly, but she would teach you how to grow in the garden, how to grow fruits and vegetables and herbs that nourished you, and how to grow flowers that delighted you, with strange names she would always know, as though these were names she herself had chosen for them, and she would always know their season, their particulars, like a mother knows what foods her babies like to eat, there were whole taxonomies of flowers and plants in her head, and everything was a sprawling taxonomy, mountains of beads and jewelry and ribbons and fabric and paint and glue pouring out from makeshift workspaces, arranged into families and groups as precariously and with as much poetry as any really living life, and the ups and downs of the stock market and the ins and outs of real estate were arrayed in her mind and upon the slightest slivers of paper, the backs of receipts and envelopes and matchbooks, mysterious ciphers in her careful, lovely scrawl, populating reams of scratch paper that curled around her house like vines, full of lives of their own, flowing from every surface, and each calculation coming with a mathematics and a lesson on self-sufficiency embedded in it, and recipes, oh recipes, as though recipes were a kingdom unto themselves, and tuna salad begat egg salad, and egg salad begat devilled eggs, the kitchen at once a sacred shrine and a restless artist’s tangled workplace, and back out in the garden she would teach you how to pull up the weeds, not just which ones to pull, but how to do it as a discipline, as an aesthetic, as the sun rose, when the rest of the world was asleep, with a good dog at her side, and a cup of too-sweet coffee in one hand, and the new day full of possibility, full of opportunity, the early bird does not catch worms, she opens up her own restaurant, she teaches you how to eat, how to cook, how to present food elegantly, because the table is a canvas, the good spirits of her many guests are canvases to paint upon, generosity is a thing to paint with, everything is adorned, everything is arrayed, every thing is part of a collection of things, and because her bright green eyes were prisms, and her long hands were factories, every thing can be made to be some other thing, turned around, painted, put in a new context, given to a school or a church for children to make new art with, or sell it and sell it and sell it until you can buy a house and sell a house and save enough to give away so her grandchildren will never be cold or hungry or sick and the things she labored greatest over, the pains she suffered most for, the love that just flowed and flowed and flowed out of her because she had no beginning and no end as long as she loved, and her love was out in the world, here we are, with names she gave us, doing her proud, seeing, hearing, feeling this immeasurable limitless potential of a world she dreamt up for us, to travel over, to sing to, to entertain, to build upon, to find love on, always to find love, to find someone to sing to, to travel with, to entertain, to build with, to dance with, to laugh with, to cry with, to cook with, to fill the belly and the heart with, to dream dreams with, to breathe with

and I was there with her as she breathed her last breath, her hand in mine, her no-longer seeing eyes looking through me to a new world, her sweet face young again, poised, mischievously to the end, in the vaguest suggestion of a smile, with the lines of life and care and her prodigious, idiosyncratic folk wisdom smoothed over in her departure from this place, that last breath pure and calm and full of peace, even in her last instant of life a lesson to hand down to me, her son, her friend, and a hope that this world, this world without her, would be like this world with her, a place where to wake up and breath is to dream without limitation