My childhood was quiet and predictable. Weekdays were devoted to school. Weekends meant that I visited with my grandparents and went to church. In between I would help my mom clean the house, fold laundry and accompany her on errands. When summertime game the big deal was sleeping late, swimming in one of the city pools and engaging in games with neighborhood friends. By the age of fifteen I varied the routine by working on weekends and in the summer. Once in a while the family would go out to eat or to visit one of my aunts or uncles. Mostly I lived in a comfortable little bubble filled with loving and caring people, so I never really felt that I needed more excitement in my life. Moving five times during third grade and then losing my father in a car accident at the end of the school year provided me with enough adventure to last a lifetime.
My years as a newly wed and then a mother and working woman followed a similar pattern. I carved out my life to a routine that allowed me to take care of all of the people in my life and find contentment for myself. Excitement consisted mostly of spending wonderful evenings with good friends or going to movies, with a summer camping trip thrown into the yearly mix. Life centered around family, close friends, work. Those really were the best of times.
I’ve had my share of extravagant trips, glorious dining experiences, and live performances from my favorite entertainers, but mostly I have tended to prefer small gatherings with interesting people rather than raucous affairs. I like long conversations and challenging discussions around my dining table or in the comfort of my great room. I’ve been more than blessed to have partaken in such memorable moments during my lifetime while sipping on a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Sitting around Pat and Bill’s kitchen table or lounging in lawn chairs by Egon and Marita’s pool are some of the happiest memories that I have. Munching on Monica’s homemade goodies while Franz stoked a campfire is a joy in the repository of my mind. Laughing with Linda and Bill while our children ran wild kept me going whenever the going got tough.
Such gatherings brought me the greatest joy, so I have often imagined what it might be like to share an intimate conversation with a celebrity. I always thought that I would most probably just listen to whatever that person had to say, soaking in the wisdom and knowledge that he or she had to offer. Little did I suspect that my grandson Andrew’s Christmas gift for me and my husband would turn into such a remarkable version of my fondest wish.
Andrew told us on Christmas day that he wanted to take us to one of the performances of the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall. He instructed us to look at the spring calendar and find the event that most intrigued us. He would then purchase tickets for all of us to attend.
It was a delightful idea made even better by the fact that we have gone out very little in the past two years, so we were eager to scan the list of concerts remaining in their season. To our great joy we saw that Ihtzak Perlman was one of the guests who would be coming to our town. We immediately contacted Andrew and told him that we had made our choice. He purchased tickets and we waited for the day to come.
We had fun dressing better than we have in months. We were almost giddy as we readied ourselves for the occasion. Going downtown was an adventure because we had mostly been staying at home. Our planned lunch before the event went a bit south because so many workers at the restaurant had called in sick that the only offering they had was a buffet that looked as though it had been prepared from boxes of frozen leftovers. Nonetheless, we did not care about the food or the fact that the live jazz ended up being “Larry the Lounge Lizard” playing on a small keyboard because we were overjoyed to spend time with Andrew just talking.
We finally sauntered over to Jones Hall and found our seats only to realize that the sole items on the stage were a grand piano, a small table and a huge screen. It was a remarkable and unexpected sight until the screen lit up with an image of Ed Sullivan who announced, “Ladies and gentlemen welcome Ihtzak Perlman.” Then out came Mr. Perlamn on his scooter to resounding applause and a standing ovation.
Ihtzak proceeded to tell us the story of his life and his rise to fame as one of the great violinists of our time. He began with the tale of his parents leaving Poland in the early 1930s, and of their life in Israel before he was born. He laughed at how his mother and father had always believed he was a genius, and so they began music lessons for him when he was still a toddler. He peppered his story with performances of music that he had played during his lifetime as he became more and more adept at making his violin sing like the sound of angels.
Ihtzak Perlman was funny, self deprecating, honest and sincere. He spoke with a soft voice that had the lilt of someone who was happy with the way his life had been. He told us about contracting polio and how life changing that illness had been, but he did so without pitying himself. He showed us how full his journey had been and how love and music had made it wonderful. His face was kind and seemingly more interested in making us all feel comfortable and happy than impressing us. I found myself liking him as a person and admiring him as an artist. The time was so intimate that it felt like he was in my great room and that he was a dear friend.
By the end of the performance I felt that I deeply knew the man and his music. Of course I wanted more, but as with all such encounters the end had come. He played his solo from the soundtrack for Schindler’s List and tears rolled down my cheeks as my emotions overtook me. The sound of his violin spoke to my heart and I knew that that it was because the strings were being guided by an man who was a gift for us all.
It was a quiet afternoon sitting between my husband and my eldest grandson listening to a great man share his story and his art. I could not think of any place on the earth that I would have rather been. It was a gift that I will forever hold in my heart.