Friday, December 08, 2017

an anniversary to remember

I mentioned yesterday (duck, ma) that my brother's birthday was the day before my parents' anniversary.

That, of course, means today is the seventy-first anniversary of my parents' marriage. My mother has survived my father by twenty-one years. But their anniversary is still their anniversary.

I have previously mounted my moral high horse soap box (to mix my clichés) to decry the current trend of turning someone else's celebration into a love feast for the speaker. You have seen the greeting cards: "Thanks, Mom, for everything you did for me. I wouldn't be me without your attention to me and everything I did because I am me through you." Somehow parents become mere channels to validate our own solipsistic existentialism.

And that is almost exactly what I am about to do. I suspect the re-run of that photograph at the top has already telegraphed my vice.

Several readers commented yesterday on my relationship with my brother -- including my mother. I responded that Darrel and I could not now be such good friends without the excellent parenting we received.

We were not a wealthy family. At least, not in material goods. But our parents never failed to provide us with the raw goods that helped us to develop our individual lives.

Our Encyclopedia Americana was a perfect example. Dad and Mom purchased it for the family when I was in the fifth grade. For me, it was the key to a magic garden. Thumbing through its pages, I traveled to Ancient Greece, learned about the gross national product of the disintegrating British Empire, and peeked in on the wonders of the United States Congress. I trace my insatiable curiosity back to that giant shelf of books.

And there was music. My parents had an older record player that played 45 and 75 RPM vinyl disks. Most of the records were big band hits or Christmas tunes with a few popular songs like "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" and Kate Smith's "God Bless America."

Mom approved my request to update our collection with a membership in the Columbia Record Club. We certainly added variety. Jan and Dean. The Beach Boys. But, I was most taken with the classical music recordings. Especially, Handel's Messiah. I had never heard anything that magnificent.

I would sit straight through the full oratorio. For a boy just entering his teens, the two and a half hour recording had to be good to keep my attention. And it was. To this day, it is still one of my favorite Baroque works.

Various threads in our lives come together in odd ways. I had just recently listened to Messiah on YouTube. Then came my brother's birthday and today's anniversary.

For some reason, I listened to Messiah this morning. And with the opening notes of one of its better-known movements ("Unto Us a Child is Born"), the pieces of this week's jigsaw puzzle fell into place. "For unto us a child is born/Unto us a son is given."

The second line of that couplet filled me with joy. And in the next few months, I will undoubtedly tell you why.

But, not today. Today is a day for my mother -- and father.

Happy anniversary to two of the most honorable people I have ever known.   

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