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Emily Grossman

Christmas Miracles

December 22, 2010 at 6:24 AM

As successful as my recital in Soldotna was, I had my doubts about recreating it in Tulsa with my Aunt Susie. I sent her the music a month in advance and wrote a note explaining that she could play it through and let me know what parts of it she thought she could tackle. Aunt Susie is a gifted pianist, but busy. The weeks went by, and I never heard from her, nor did I make an effort to check back with her. The only action I took as the Tulsa date approached was to call my parents to try to cancel. Unfortunately, they'd already booked the church and begun telling everyone about it, and my granny had invited five friends. So, I talked myself into believing maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all, and maybe my aunt had been practicing after all, and well, perhaps Christmas miracles happen after all...

Wednesday night, just four days before the recital, I met with Aunt Susie in Tulsa for our first run-through. It didn't take more than a couple of measures before it became clear to me that the Brahms and Beethoven were never going to happen. She was certain she could pull it together in three days, but after the months of work Maria and I had logged, I knew better.

How did I ever get myself into this situation? And how could I get out of it? I'd already sent out the facebook invitations. Plus, I didn't want to make my aunt feel bad; I should never have asked so much from her in the first place. I'd just been too attached to this fantasy I had of sharing the fruits of my effort with people in the Lower 48 who couldn't make the Alaska recital.

The truth of the matter is, you just can't recreate special moments. I spend the vast majority of my life trying to relive what I think were the good times. Maybe I don't literally dawn my letterman jacket or hit the monkey bars, but too often, I find myself dwelling on those times in my life when everything seemed to be lined up just the way I wanted them, and I was happy. (It's interesting how the passage of time allows the heart to pick and choose what it wants to remember. Mine softens it all with a pink gauze and discards most of the dark pointy things that hurt--no one wants to keep those, anyway.)

Since I couldn't get out of the recital, I did the next best thing and whipped out a book of Christmas songs I'd brought along for those just-in-case moments. "How about we make this a Christmas recital instead?" It was a distant, disappointing consolation to my original plan, but maybe it would be better than nothing. Swallowing my pride and trying not feel too embarrassed at the thought of an entire program of cheesy Christmas tunes, I sight-read the book with Susan and set up a second rehearsal to work out the details.

Saturday night the two of us--she with her eye glasses and I with my pencil--set to make good on our procrastinated inspirations. Cinnamon and molasses wafted through the air: Mamma's in the kitchen baking cookies and mulling cider for recital refreshments. My little nephews crowded into the space behind me to play with baby Jesus and the manger scene on the end table. Slightly stressed and pressed, Aunt Susie and I played Silent Night for the umpteenth time. Suddenly, my heart stirred:

Emily, stop and look at this chaotic moment, the one in the here-and-now, and you will see that this is the memory, the one you will actually look back and smile upon, though now you hash out bowings and fingerings with furrowed brow. Ten years from now, you won't remember a single dark pointy mark from your pencil, but you will remember that smell of mom's fresh baking and the sound of carols being played, and most of all Family, and it will all be pink and gauzy.

Sunday, as I warmed up at the church where I grew up, people began to darken the door of the sanctuary. My granny was there, as well as my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends from elementary school, and friends from college who I hadn't seen in over a decade. The audience continued to trickle in, bringing with them glad tidings and happy memories.

Sunday, I took the stage, not to impress with skill and genius composition, but to give a new happy memory back to the ones I love.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 22, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Glad it worked out well despite the problems.  As your post shows, sometimes the key to a situation is how you look at it and react to it, how you adjust your goals.  Have a great holiday and New Year!

From Terez Mertes
Posted on December 22, 2010 at 3:17 PM

 Aww, what a great story, and what great wisdom. Especially liked (and could very much relate to) this: 

>The truth of the matter is, you just can't recreate special moments. I spend the vast majority of my life trying to relive what I think were the good times.

Thanks for a heartwarming story with a great universal message.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on December 22, 2010 at 7:29 PM

What a dilemma and what a bold solution--playing well known tunes is the hardest form of playing there is. 

From Ray Weaver
Posted on December 22, 2010 at 8:19 PM

A beautiful story of being graced with wisdom - thank you!

From judith s
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 2:01 AM

Thanks for this - it's a different kind of happy ending :).

From David Russell
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 3:26 AM

 Emily---You're the greatest!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 4:06 AM

Aww, thanks everyone!  Your comments are Christmas ornaments to me: I appreciate the beauty each of you add.

From Susan Jeter
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 6:02 AM

Emily - this was my favorite sentence:

"It's interesting how the passage of time allows the heart to pick and choose what it wants to remember."

That is so poetic...

From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 1:24 PM

And so true. 

Emily, you got the miracle you deserved for X-mas.  Have a great holiday and New Year.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 5:27 PM

 I bet you made your family so happy. That sounds like a beautiful and generous recital.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 25, 2010 at 8:26 AM

Thanks, Laurie!

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