Thursday, February 28, 2008

Milton Young Musicians' Festival article

The Milton Times ran my profile of Emma Jean Moulton and her Milton Young Musicians' Festival today.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another loss

I found out today that another friend has died. Camille Austin, Timmy's godmother, passed away on Thursday, leaving her 19-year-old daughter, Lauren. She is also survived by her fiance, Paul.
I don't know the details of what happened, although she had been fighting breast cancer for some time. I will be assisting with the music at Camille's funeral on Wednesday.

My heart is so heavy for Camille, for Lauren, and for Timmy. Camille was a good woman, strong in her faith, and had suffered so much from the death of her husband, Alan, several years ago. She and Lauren were as close as a mother and a daughter can be. Her entire world revolved around Lauren, and she once told me she had postponed any real commitment to a man until after Lauren left for college. She put Lauren through Catholic elementary and high school, and one year of Fairfield for college. Lauren transferred to UMass-Amherst last year.

Camille was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant with Timmy. She knew all that we were facing at the time, when we were just beginning to understand that Abby might have special needs, and Brian was 6 months old. Always interested in fashion, she told me that she liked my outfit at the Christmas Eve 4:00 mass, whereupon I blurted out that I was pregnant. Right there in the sacristy, she said, "Oh my God," and understood right away that it was not the time for congratulations.

She brought Lauren for voice lessons for a few years, and spent many a half-hour in the family room with Abby and her babysitter, Kayla, while I vocalized Lauren upstairs. The checks she wrote to cover the lessons had Snoopy on them.

She always remembered the kids at their birthdays and Christmas, but also at Halloween and Valentine's Day, too. She was a thoughtful, caring, fun, practical, fancy, gracious woman and friend. I miss her.

Camille and Timmy, January 2006

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's too early for that

Yesterday I got a fat envelope in the mail from New England Conservatory, where I went to grad school. It was heftier than the usual fundraising appeal letter, and it certainly wasn't an admissions packet. Curious, I opened it.

"Come to your 15th reunion!" it said.

"Why would I want to do that?" I thought.

Grad school for me was very much a means to an end; not the life-altering experience that college was. I was there to get my Masters' and get a jump on my singing career. Friendships were incidental. We all were in the practice room so much that there was little time, or emotional energy, to put into fostering close bonds.

The good folks at the NEC alumni office included a list of alums, which I put aside to review later. Who knows who I might remember? Also included was a shorter list of lost and deceased alumni. Most of the lost appeared to be former international students; I doubted they'd ever be found.

The deceased list was two names long. The first was Allan Hill. I didn't know Allan well; he was an undergrad clarinet major, and our paths didn't cross too often. He worked at the audio library, and would patiently fetch opera and lieder recordings for me with a bright smile. Allan was brutally attacked one day on his way home from school, and wound up in Boston City Hospital, where he died. He's been gone a long time; may he rest in peace.

The other name on the deceased list was a shock: Bethany Krenek. Beth lived across the hall from me in the dorm, and was my closest friend my first year at NEC. She brought her tuba all the way from Rockford, Illinois, to pursue her Masters' in performance. She was smart and funny, and we had some good times. We had kept in touch for a while after graduation, but had stopped exchanging Christmas cards some time ago. What had happened to her?

A Google search revealed little; Rockford-area obituary archives didn't include hers. Finally, I found a mention of a Beth Krenek from Illinois on a website dedicated to gynecological cancers. She had died of endometrial cancer on August 14, 1999. She was 30 years old.

How could she have been dead for 8 years without my knowing? What was I doing on August 14, 1999? What had she done in the six years she had since we had crossed the Jordan Hall stage? She was so young; why hadn't I been a better friend and kept in touch? Grief and guilt washed over me in equal measure.

I'm still processing this news. Mostly I am newly grateful for my own days since August 14, 1999.

Rest in peace, Beth.
Beth and I, NEC commencement, May 1993

Monday, February 11, 2008

I did it!

I've wanted to start submitting to magazines for some time now, but haven't done anything about it, until yesterday. (Not including the submission to that one magazine that turned sour.)

I had picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping and actually had time to read it, and found that I enjoyed it. (Part of me fears what this might say about me, but I am the target demographic, after all -- a married "new traditionalist" with children.) So I broke open my Writer's Market and saw that GH takes queries, of course, but also submissions for the "Blessings" column on the back page. And on Saturday, I thought of a piece I had written last year -- unpublished -- that could be a good fit for that column.

So I printed my piece, wrote a cover letter and sent it off to New York with a prayer and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. I included the former, that it might be published, and the latter, that I will know if it won't be.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Womyn Zone article

Here's my profile of local radio talk show host Jeanne White, which ran in the Womyn Zone section of today's Patriot Ledger.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dance the night away

I love to dance. Brian and Timmy love to dance (and play teddy-guitar along with the music.) Abby doesn't walk; she prances. So when I saw that Abby's school was hosting a family dance last night, I thought it would be a lot of fun. When I noticed that I could also get a pizza dinner for the kids at $1 a slice, I was sold.

We showed up a little early, just after the pizza arrived. We sat in the cafeteria (or "cap-e-teria," as Brian said) and ate our slices. Then it was dancing time.

The PTO had hired a DJ, complete with big speakers and colored lights. Kids were dancing with each other, with their parents, and by themselves. I brought my three out to the middle of the gym and helped them get started. The boys took off like they were on Dance Fever (does anyone remember that show?) and Abby needed some encouragement, but she did some dancing, too.

We had a great time for about 15 minutes. Then I noticed Abby looking a little dazed. I asked her what was wrong, and she said it was too loud and the lights were bothering her. I helped her turn her back to the lights, but she was getting upset. I brought her to the back of the gym; it didn't help. So I asked her if she wanted to go home, and she tearfully said yes.

I went to round up the boys, and when I got back to Abby, she was flapping her arms. She took a few deep breaths, but was getting more and more upset. I quickly shepherded everyone out into the hallway, and by the time we got to the car, Abby was calmer. We talked about how some people are just more sensitive to loud noise (and lights, she reminded me.) I said maybe we needed to bring earplugs the next time, but I don't really have a solution for the lights.

I had wanted to bring Abby to the dance as a social and recreational opportunity. I completely forgot about her sensory issues until I saw her having trouble. The boys don't have those issues; Brian was in his element and would have stayed and danced all night. Timmy's dance card was full, too.

I'm glad we tried it, but maybe Abby's social activities will have to be more subdued, at least for a while.