A symphony, a tradition, and a Dixie cup of memories

Mixed Media Painting (Detail) by Choichun Leung / Dumbo Arts Center: Art Under the Bridge Festival 2009 / 20090926.10D.54927.P1.L1.C23 / SML

Photo © See-ming Lee, Painting by Choichun Leung

As parents, we love it when we see our best attributes, beloved pastimes and favorite foods embraced by our children, to be remembered with great fondness through the years as revered traditions. It’s validation that we are good, that our decisions are right, and that we are doing a wonderful job rearing them.

Well, maybe not, but it certainly feels that way.

We were no different when our kids were young. When our oldest child, Alexis, was around 4 years old, she used to put on our bulky stereo headphones, which in retrospect seemed almost as big as her head, and attached by the curlycue cord, dance to our music, her little blue zoo-themed sweatpanted arms and legs just flailing away. When her dad played one of his favorite albums, she would rock to the beat and holler with gusto, “That’s headbanger music, Dad!” When I played mine, she would gently sway, and with loads of charm and a disarming smile,  say “That’s sweet country music, mom!”

We were both enchanted by her adoption of our disparate musical tastes, but thought we ought to expand her horizons beyond Edgar Winter and Tanya Tucker.

A few years passed, during which we added other types of music to our repertoire. We would do household chores to Cleaning To The Classics, a vibrantly rocking collection of classical tunes, and over time we wore out CD’s from various movie soundtracks, especially The Little Mermaid: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, as we sang along with Chef Louis endlessly and with great exaggeration, mimicry and giggles:

Les poissons
Les poissons
How I love les poissons
Love to chop
And to serve little fish
First you cut off their heads
Then you pull out the bones
Ah mais oui
Ca c’est toujours delish
Les poissons
Les poissons
Hee hee hee
Hah hah hah!

I do apologize if that plays endlessly in your head for the rest of the day…

When both girls were in their early elementary years, we heard that the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and their chorus were going to do an Independence Day concert at a nearby mountain resort. We thought this would be an opportunity to introduce them to live orchestral music in a casual atmosphere, to give them room to twitch, twirl and tumble without annoying the other patrons. Besides, all children under 18 could attend free with a paying adult.

It sounded like a winner of an evening.

We planned a picnic, and as we walked to the grassy hillside on that gorgeous summer’s eve,  we gave silent thanks for all of the parents who, like ourselves, had bravely chosen to bring their energetic offspring to a performance of a symphony orchestra, an event associated more with the cultured members of society than with the milk and cookies set.

The evening was marvelous and magical, filled with tunes from Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. The girls danced and swirled their way through the deepening twilight, accompanied by other children, forming colorful trails with their glowing neon necklaces.

As the performance moved towards its conclusion, the moon shed enough light to display an audience captivated by the final Broadway number: a rousing rendition of Oklahoma. The orchestra then broke into a series of marches, and we heard the first of many resounding booms that signaled the beginning of the fireworks.

A fusillade of sparkling confetti formed intricate patterns in the darkness, and we oohed and ahhed in appreciation. Clouds of smoke drifted across the hillside, filling our nostrils with the sharp odor of gunpowder. We watched the final bursts of color drift lazily down, and then gathered our belongings.

Moonlight spilled and tumbled down the slope as we cautiously picked our way up the uneven ground towards the parking lot.

Thankfulness for many things filled my soul, and I gripped my children’s hands just a little tighter. I realized times exist in our lives that are so special, moments that are so wondrous, they will forever become a part of us. That night counted as one of those times. Therefore, I placed that treasured evening in my Dixie cup of memories, to sip from when I need refreshing.

What traditions and memories are you creating with your family?


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  1. I would just like to set the record straight – it was Patty Loveless and Edgar Winter.

    I’m thaaaaaaaaaaaaat kind of girl.

    (what on earth did you let your children listen to???)

    • Oh my gosh, you are right! I can hear you belting out those words right now. Really, where were your parents? 0_0

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