Stage lights

Tonight Young J and I went to Carnegie Hall to hear the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. This was our second time going, so it’s now an annual event. Young J saw a mailing I received about an upcoming Orpheus concert last December, and lobbied hard until I agreed to take him. It went fine, except he wasn’t quite heavy enough to keep his seat unfolded so there were multiple Paddington Bear-like moments (minus the marmalade sandwiches).

This year, he had gained the requisite amount of weight, so the seat was no problem. Instead he seemed to be running afoul of the exceedingly strict ushers, who freaked out when I let him go to the railing unaccompanied to look down at the rest of the theatre. I knew he wouldn’t fall, but they didn’t. Also they seemed to be worried about him running up and down the stairs. (I wasn’t.) I took him with me to the restroom before the show, but at intermission they stopped me and said he was too old to use the ladies’ room. I had to wait outside the mens’ room, trying to see when he came out, but unsee the mirror reflection of the men at the urinals. Lovely. Also, this year, like last, the paper cones at the water cooler all leaked and Young J and I giggled, remembering how the same thing had happened last year.

Tonight’s program included cheery, pastoral Grieg, stately Bach, and exuberant Mozart. There was also a new piece, a commission by a young composer named Anna Clyne. I skimmed the program notes and saw the piece was sort of an elegy for her mother. I decided not to dwell on that, instead focusing on the unusual music and how I could find something in it to connect with. I mostly failed until the third movement, which was called Lavender Rain, and which she composed on the anniversary of her mother’s death.

There were rising and falling glissandi, it seemed very dramatic, and I closed my eyes for a moment. Not dozing, just seeing if depriving myself of one sense would sharpen the others. When I opened my eyes, the stage lights looked dimmer. I frowned. I worried my eyesight had suffered permanent damage from the steroids or some other element of my treatment. And then the lights continued to dim, and I noticed small lights attached to the music stands. This was intentional and I suddenly found it tremendously moving. The light ebbing as the piece continued, the musicians fading into blackness, the small lights on their stands like beacons bobbing in the ocean. I hadn’t brought any tissues so I just let the tears slide down my face while I willed myself not to make any specific and unhelpful connections between what I was seeing and hearing and anything remotely related to my situation.

When the lights came back up, Young J seemed curious, but not at all surprised to see my tear-streaked face. He knows me by now, knows how easily I succumb, and that it was only a matter of time before I was moved by the simple fact of attending such a beautiful concert with my firstborn, in a hall as plush and velvety and vast as the inside of a plush, velvet whale, as he grew more and more sleepy and snuggled up in my lap waiting for the tympani to come back in.

(By the time we left the ushers loved him.)

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