The winter is dark and cold and I am working too hard, right through the holidays. But tonight I shut off my computer early and give myself a breather.
I am sitting in my recliner. It is midnight. I am reading a memoir that is alternately bringing tears to my eyes and making me laugh out loud.
I am watching the Kennedy Center Honors on DVR. I turn it on thinking there might be a couple of good moments and it will be background music to my reading. Instead, it has pulled me away from my reading, and it is making my heart sing. First the tribute to Robert De Niro, with clips from his distinguished body of work. Later on to honoree Dave Brubeck--and it’s his 79th birthday! Band after band is revealed onstage playing his music. He is watching, delighted, from the balcony, and then another band is revealed, and it’s his four sons; he is surprised and the pure elation on his face brings tears to my eyes again. I’m digging Barack Obama’s head bopping to the beat too.
I suddenly see myself as I sit here. Yes, I am wearing a hat. In my living room. It is very cold outside and very cold inside, because no matter how high I turn the heat up, the wall of windows in my living room that I can’t afford to replace with fancy energy-saving ones and the crappily designed duct system in this townhouse I love betray me. The hat is several shades of purple and teal and it is very soft. It sits comically atop my head, not pulled down properly, because I have such a bad headache that even the slight pressure of my hat hurts. I figure some of my body heat will escape through my head but not all of it. (This is an example of my “secret single behavior,” a delicious term I first heard come out of the mouth of Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City.”)
The hat stays on after my hard won “reverie au recliner” began and was almost immediately interrupted by my boy, who I love to bits, popping upstairs and asking for a ride to the Metro. For a fraction of a moment I balk at going out into the cold (or at moving at all, for that matter). But my boy, though 21, with his own car, is off to a bar with a friend, getting a ride back with another designated driver friend, and how can I refuse this eminently sensible plan which will return him home safely to me? We pick up his friend down the street, joking around as we drive to the Metro, and as they get out I am laughing and it feels so good, like when he was younger, except they are now taller and me and do not reek of motley colognes like they did in middle school. I get to be a mom hands-on again for these few precious weeks.
This reading a great book, watching TV that is an example of what TV should be (plus I get to fast-forward through the pharmaceutical commercials), listening to fine music and praising great artists, quality time with my son, this is what feeds the soul, sparks my creativity, makes my heart soar. And only hours earlier I was feeling overwhelmed, on the verge of weeping with despair, mired in my varied personal problems and the seemingly endless woes of the world around me. And then Caroline Kennedy starts the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony quoting her father on the importance of art, and grace, and beauty. Art, and grace, and beauty, which elevate us to a place where we can put our problems aside.
The whole hall is on its feet now, rocking and clapping as Sting performs Springsteen’s anthem, “The Rising.” For these few hours, the sun breaks through the harsh winter night.
“But art? It is pure and intense play... it is like pure and intense life”