At the door, Berkeley, CA.
This afternoon, while listening to Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors for the seven hundred and twenty-eighth time since Christmas, the lil’ monkey drew a picture. I am noting the obvious when I say that she, like her mother, and her mother’s entire family, is an Amahl and the Night Visitors FREAK. (Anyone not familiar with this delightful holiday operetta can watch the entire historic 1951 telecast of it thanks to the miracle of YouTube — it’s a one act, 54 minute video, including the composer’s introduction. More fun facts about the operetta can be found here on Wikipedia’s entry.)
At this point the girlie has already got half the lyrics memorized, and for days on end has only answered to the name “Kaspar” (one of the three kings in the opera). I’m sure what egged this on was that the beloved (at the lil’ monkey’s behest) told the whole story, and then sang all the parts to all the songs (baritone, straight tone boy soprano, and mezzo) as we drove down out of the mountains after our holiday vacation. Sure beats “Ninety-nine Bottles of Milk on the Wall” for two and a half hours. At the end of the rendition, our girlie was chanting “More opera! More opera!” At which point we gave each other that contented “Our work here is done” look.
Last week when LD was OWON (Offline WithOut Notice), I had written most of a draft piece about the Christmas holiday. In it I wrote about how when I was young, the holiday’s primary meaning stemmed from the repetition of traditional songs, and decorations, and food, and references to love and kindness — as it does for so many — but also from my mother’s abundant love, and from the vicarious thrill she got watching my sister and me experience the bounty she had longed for as a girl, and never received. I wrote about how after my mother died, the wind was knocked out of the holiday for me. I took a gloomy detour to describe my Worst Christmas on Record, the one following my mother’s death, when my father and I joined my sister who was then living in Norway.
We all went up to an ancient farm outside of Trondheim, where my sister’s husband’s sister (my sister in-law-in-law?) lived with her husband on the working farm that had been in the family for hundreds of years. He took us to look at goats with coin-slot pupils who would live out that winter, but none more. I wrote about the wan December light (dawn and sunrise came in late morning; dusk and sunset in mid-afternoon; at its zenith the sun was little more than a stone’s throw above the horizon). The tundra that stretched for as far as the eye could see. Our compassionate but taciturn hosts. My crying jags in the bathroom, with the faucet turned on to mask the sound. I wrote about how it all combined to underscore the dimming of the light of Christmas for me, in the absence of my mother (the heavenly body around which we all orbited, and without whom we began to slowly drift out of orbit). I wrote about how I never could summon the enthusiasm for the holiday in the same way again.