#135: Looking Both Ways
The importance of looking both ways, a long ago memory of jumping on the bed, and living gracefully.
Looking Both Ways
The adage that we all learn when growing up of look both ways before you cross the street is an important one, but it’s important to look both ways in many things in life. Let me explain.
In 2006, after decades of teaching piano, coaching musicians, and working long hours as an accompanist, I closed my music studio to work full-time in food PR before morphing in to a pie teacher and published author. For the thirty-five years that preceded that, and much longer if you count that I started playing piano before the age of one, I was seated at a keyboard daily for hours playing, practicing, and performing. During all the years of working in music, I held my head in a somewhat fixed and slightly askew position to the right, while reading whatever score was on the piano desk, and relying on my peripheral vision to watch the bow arms of string players, the backs of vocalists, wind, and brass players gauging how much breath they had…or hadn’t, and conductors’ batons, all off to the piano’s port side. After decades of holding my head this way, I now have fairly cranky shoulders and a pretty creaky neck, an occupational hazard more aptly known as arthritis. Ah well. Perhaps it would have been good to look the other way a little more often to balance it all out, but what did I know back then.
There were plenty of other injuries, too, from hiking, backpacking, and a few forays into skiing and climbing, enough so that now, when I fill out those medical forms that ask for dates of injuries and where they are, I feel that I could probably just circle my entire body, or better yet circle the few areas left that haven’t been injured. My neck has taken the brunt of it, but so have my hands, arms, fingers, and back, and along with three knee surgeries from sports related mishaps, I hear and feel my creaking joints every day. We’re very closely acquainted. I’m often asked if I play piano any more, but truly anything much longer than about fifteen minutes seems to activate all my owie places.
I don’t believe in the no pain, no gain thing, in fact, now I very much try to stop before I feel any pain even when I want to continue digging, planting, and weeding. I’m learning to practice more self-care with each passing year and wish I had begun lots sooner. I have a massage at least once a month, go to the chiropractor when something feels off, do my stretches and exercises, walk, and when the weather gets a bit better I’ll be back out on my ebike Arrow. I do all this because I want to continue to enjoy my life and the many years to come in a graceful and grateful manner, all of which got me to thinking about my mom, Helen Louise.
My mom, a pianist and master teacher, was gracious up to her final breath. She gave me the gift of music, something I was able to thank her for when our family gathered with her for one final lunch in the fall of 1982, just a few weeks before she passed away. I remember well that day and how the sky was so blue, and the air crisp upon my face with the scent of change. I’m sure the meal at The Tea House was lovely, but what I remember most was the joy of sharing the table with all of us together one last time. That lunch was also the perfect moment to finally fess up to a little something that had happened decades before when my brother was seven and I but three.
One afternoon while mom was teaching in our living room, my brother and I were having a great old time jumping up and down on our parents’ bed. We jumped and laughed until we heard an ominous cracking sound in the wood frame that held the bed. We looked at each other knowing that this was definitely not a good sound, stopped immediately, and climbed down. We never said a thing about it to our parents...ever. Later that same night I heard a loud crash in their bedroom. I opened their door to see my dad’s side of the bed down on the ground with him still in it, and mom tucked under the covers on her side still up high. I doubt if they were doing something as the look on my dad’s face, which I still remember to this day, was one of being absolutely flabbergasted and, if they were doing something it wouldn’t surprise me if my dad, a very devout Irish Catholic, just might have thought it to be a sign from the holy mother herself to stop doing that something! So, there I was, telling this story to my Mom years later and, in her ladylike and very graceful way, she smiled and laughed, and told me she remembered that night and wondered what really had happened back then, although something tells me she probably had always known that my brother and I were the culprits. Moms just know things. Yes?
A week or so after that lunch, her second husband Jerry and I were by her side as she took her final breath. Before I could take one of my own, I watched as he took her hand to remove the ring he had placed on her finger when they had wed five years before. He repeated the words ‘til death do us part and then turned and gave the ring to me. We held each other and cried.
A few hours later, after making the calls that needed to be made and her safely at our family’s funeral home, I asked him, “Should we go get a drink?” He thought that was a fine idea, and up the hill we drove to the El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara where my mom and dad (Tom and Louise) had had their wedding breakfast reception in 1943.
Jerry and I sat and looked out over the beautiful city that she and my dad, who passed away in 1969, loved so very much. We ordered margaritas, her favorite cocktail, and asked the server to bring a third…for her. My thoughts are hazy about what Jerry and I talked about as we sipped on them, but later when I returned from a trip to the powder room, I saw tears on his cheeks. In a hushed and breaking voice he said, She was here. I saw her. She came. Many others saw her that night, too; in Seattle she came to my first wuzband who saw her seated at her beautiful Chickering grand, the piano she presented to us when we married and the one I learned to play on; her two-piano partner saw her in Arizona at her piano; and many students and peers in her Santa Barbara music community shared that they saw her at their pianos, too.
In a lighthearted way, I have often said that death must be pretty darn good as no one ever comes back from it. Well, almost never as I am one who at nine had a near death experience, a moment that has stayed with me to this day, perhaps shaping my life in its own way. But, when my final time does come, I very much hope that I might come back for one last graceful toast with my loved ones.
Here’s to you, Mom.
What I’m Reading
We Are the ARK: Returning Our Gardens to Their True Nature Through Acts of Restorative Kindness by Mary Reynolds
In 2002, Mary Reynolds became the youngest person to win first place at the prestigious Chelsea Garden Show. (A movie was made about that experience, too.) In the Spring of 2019, I visited one of her garden designs at Brigit’s Garden just outside of Galway, Ireland. Now, she has become a strong proponent of re-wilding land to its natural state.
What I’m Watching
All Creatures Great and Small on PBS
These times in our world can feel so very turbulent and I love how this series takes me away from all that. I watched the first episode of season three last night and smiled all the way through it.
Register Now for Chicken Pot Pie Class February 12
Here’s the link to register for the next segment in the year long virtual Bake with Kate series. We’ll be making a Chicken Pot Pie which you can make as individual servings to pop in to your freezer and pull out as needed, or a full pie for your Sunday supper. I hope you will join me.
If there is something in this post that speaks to you, I hope you will click on the little ❤️ below to let me know. ⬇️ Your comments are very dear to me, too.