It occurs to me that when my family finds out about my blog, the first thing my daughter, who is competitive about everything, will do is to count how many times I write about her. You know, as opposed to her brother.
Here be a daughter story.
This is a different kind of ghost; a powerful memory of something that happened almost 16 years ago, vivid as the minute it occurred. Still, only hindsight marked a life changing moment for our entire family. It was how my daughter discovered her LOVE of Opera.
Back story is this –
After the wedding my husband and I settled down to work really hard, continue our great careers, retire early and travel the world. We had a life plan. In less than a year we would go to a friends wedding, drink too much champagne, come home in a raging thunderstorm, which knocked out the power. What are ya gonna do?
Nine months later I’m in the middle of another power outage. Winter, a blizzard, thank god we have a fireplace, with a 10-hour-old baby girl hollering her head off. I had never so much as held a baby before her.
Boy Howdie is that a story for another day.
So the life plan was toast by the time my daughter was three, a classic example of life happening while making life plans. I left a very cool job with the ABC News bureau in DC to be at home mom.
It would be hard to overstate how beguiling she was (is). She was the size and shape of a fireplug. She had all the camouflage that makes a toddler so appealing. A high squeaky voice and infectious smiles, belly laughter and masses of brown curls, plus a sweet, intelligent disposition and an interest in everything. She was and is a marvel. How can a loser like me have produced her? She takes after her father, but she looks like me.
Suddenly I’m at home with her. Before she used to go to daycare and I used to work long hours. What do the girls do? First, she had chicken pox for three weeks. Cinderella on the VHS 17 times a day (to this day the thought of those singing mice make me want to kill myself). Then she recovered and we could go out. We’d visit my parents; do errands and generally tool around looking for trouble.
The car radio became a point of fascination. “Do you know the words to every song, Mommy?’ Yes I do, Sweetiepie”. Well I did, since it was the classic rock station.
One day we were out and about and she realized that with considerable effort she could change the radio station with her toes. (Yes, I was the bad Mom who put the car seat shotgun, but you try driving down the road trying to hand the cheerios and raisins to the shrimp in the backseat).
She found “Live at the Met”. The strains of the aria filled the car and I swear – every molecule of attention, down to her curls, pointed to the radio. “Oh Mommy”, she gasped at me, “this is the really good stuff.”
Down the road we went, listening to what I would years later realize was La Boheme by Puccini. Her concentration was absolute. She would not leave the car till the last note died away.
“What did you girls do today?” My husband asked.
“We listened to opera,” she told him. He looked at me and said “Opera?”
“You wouldn’t believe it,” I told him. “I couldn’t get her out of the car.”
Did I realize, that golden afternoon in the car with opera music swelling, what had started? Nah. But, because of my daughter, I listened to music in a language I did not understand, and was blown away by the artistry and emotion it conveyed.
She wanted opera every time we got in the car from that moment on. Our conversations went like this. “I have no orifice that produces Opera on the radio every time we get in the car.” “Can you get an orifice, Mommy? I need Opera”.
Her love of opera would lead to a decade plus of voice lesson with a remarkable, once in a lifetime kind of teacher, definitely to be written about another day. She performed in five different operas with the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center under the direction of and sometimes onstage with Placido Domingo to name just one of the amazing people we met. As a family, we have visited the Vienna Opera House and Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. Just to look at where it all started. Worth the trip.
Then one day, poof, it was over, on to other things. Accelerated academics and field hockey. It just about killed me the first hockey game I went to, hearing that classically trained soprano hollering on the field. I wished she would just break her leg. I still miss those voice lessons. It was magic, just sitting quietly and hearing what she could do.
She still loves opera. We all do in our hick way. This May when I was in Budapest (I just LOVE saying that) I went to the opera. It was fun, but would have been infinitely better if my girl had been with me. She listens so intensely.
I had the radio on recently, tooling around in the sunshine, doing errands and joyfully anticipating my daughter’s homecoming from her first semester at college. Suddenly there was opera and the years rolled back. She was there with me, curly head pointed to the radio, listening with all her heart. It was the beginning of an incredible journey.