I’ve been thinking a lot about my past after losing a loved one. I have fleeting thoughts of times in my life that have influence how I act and react to life. I was recently in Canada and experienced the fall and it reminded me of changes that happened because of my past life. I grew up in Ohio and always loved the fall because of the leaves. As an artist I am always aware of shapes and colors and there are few things more spectacular then the evening hour where the light hits the trees just so and they glow. How magnificent nature is that enables this change to take place. And every evening there is the magic hour that seems to put us all to rest for another day.
I remember, as a kid, bundling up against the chill that was just a suggestion of the winter ahead. I loved to hear the crackle of leaves under my feet as I dawdled towards school. I walked about a mile and hated it at the time. My mom thought it was good for us to have the exercise and get out in the air but really she was tired from trying to raise four kids on her own and wanted the sleep. She was a cocktail waitress and worked into the wee hours of the morning. I can’t believe she worked 12 hour shifts in a tight pencil skirt and high heels like a runner in a marathon. I can still smell the Aqua Net as she sprayed her French Twist before going to work.
My love of jazz comes from the records she would bring home from the Peacock Lounge. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. I know every note of Ella’s album Ella in Berlin:Mack the Knife as well as Frank Sinatra with Count Basie. I just recently heard Frank’s The Main Event at Madison Square Garden where Howard Cosell made the introduction. Classic.
Every time I heard a song from those artists I think back to when life was tough but also simple. Small accomplishments like singing in a high school variety show seemed to be the ultimate. Rehearsing for that moment of opening night and the few days of performance. The Sounds of Withrow. The flowers, the costumes, the makeup and the friendships. No matter what was happening on the outside there I was safe and happy.
Recently I was working with a wonderful actress who also loves jazz. Every time she would come into the trailer Billie Holiday would happened to be singing. We laughed every time but for me it gave me an opportunity to connect with someone in a different way other than business as usual. And I will have that memory every time I listen to Billie Holiday.
I guess it’s no mistake my son is a jazz guitarist and lives for his music. One of my most profound memories is his birth and the joy he has brought into my life. Who knew that a girl from Cincinnati, Ohio who sang to Ella would be singing with my son the same songs. There is no greater joy than that.
But I digress and so back to the leaves and fall. Inevitably, fall brings winter and where I lived the snow. One year I spent Christmas high in the Swiss Alps in the small town of Schwende. Only about 15 homes dotted the immense mountains but there was a church, a hostel and a place to rent skis. It was my first experience on cross country skis and I loved the freedom. In my exuberance I skied on top a mountain where it was so quiet I could hear my heart beat. Not only feel it but HEAR it. I’ve never experienced that type of quiet again. It was liberating in a very surreal way. Again, I felt safe and happy.
As I write this I realize I have had so many wonderful memories from the outrageous to the sublime. And I have had some not so wonderful memories which have made me fearful, angry and sad. But if you throw them all in the hat today I happen to pick only the wonderful ones. I again remind myself how precious life is and how fortunate I have been up to now.