Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer's Here

Gregg's mermaid (a gift from me) "swims" through the salal in our garden
James Taylor* has a song called, "Summer's Here," which perfectly fits my frame of mind right now. Summer has finally arrived in Western Washington, and we are so happy! It's been a long, gray, wet winter and spring. (I don't normally complain about the months of gray weather here, because what can you do about it? The weather is not under my control, and I feel that my work is to adapt to it.) Cute sweaters and coats, fleece, jeans, tights, Gore-Tex, indoor hobbies - they all help - but it's truly wonderful to see and feel the sunshine and warm temperatures. They arrived on July 4th.

Before that happened, on July 2nd, I drove to the airport to pick up one of my dear friends from "way back when," Linda Watson. Linda was my brother's college sweetheart; they met as students in a conservatory of music, and though they didn't marry (as we had hoped they would), my parents and I still love Linda as if she had officially joined our family. Because she is an opera singer who travels the world and makes her home in Vienna, we rarely get to see each other. When we do, we waste no time picking up where we left off, and when she leaves, I usually feel like crying. By grace, we continue to get to see one another now and then.

There are many parallels and interweavings in our lives, apart from the fact that she dated my brother. Our family histories, culture and background overlap in strange and amazing ways. Our sense of humor and many tastes are compatible. She knows my family, and loves them. Those are only a few of many things that give us a sympathy with one another which is uncommon in my life - and it's something I treasure.

Linda lived in Boston for some time, and after I graduated from college, I moved there, too. We spent time together in and around Boston. We have some fun memories, such as the time we went to hear the Commodores' last concert before Lionel Ritchie went out on his own.
That is I, on Westland Avenue in Boston, in front of my apartment building, with my 1st car (a Fiat 124 or 128, purchased used from my brother), 1981 or 1982
When Seattle's opera house was brand new, Linda came to sing the female lead in McCaw Hall's inaugural production (the role of Kundry in Richard Wagner's Parsifal). That was the first time we re-connected after many years apart, and what a joy! Gregg and the children took to Linda immediately. It was great fun for our family to have dinner with my parents, Jim, Caroline, Phil and Linda.
Gregg and I went to hear her sing the same role (in a different production, in Los Angeles) with Placido Domingo. Meeting him backstage, and hearing them sing together, was one of the highlights of my life, musically. German music, particularly Richard Wagner's, is Linda's specialty, and she is deeply beloved in the opera world, especially in the role of Brunnhilde. Gregg and I are quite ignorant about opera (we enjoy the symphony, but have been to very few operas), so inspired by Linda, we are learning, little by little.

Linda returned to visit us when Katie got out of the hospital in April 2007, and then she left to spend that summer singing in Europe. When Katie passed away a few months later, Linda was unable to attend the celebration of Katie's life. She went instead to a private, wooded park and at the same time as the memorial was taking place here, Linda sang "Over the Rainbow" in that park for Katie. I wish I could have heard her sing it.

The following February, Linda invited me to visit her in California. She came to stay with us that summer, and it has now been four years since we've seen each other. This visit was full of joy, laughter, girl talk, shopping, celebration and family-centered fun. We took her to the "Grand Old Fourth" of July celebrations on Bainbridge Island, including a classic car display, a parade, craft and food booths, and a drink on the deck of our favorite pub. We joined my parents for dinner at their house that evening, and watched fireworks over Seattle and Port Madison, while the harvest moon rose like a huge Chinese lantern over the evergreen trees.
With my parents at their house
We sat on our deck and drank our morning coffee together, watching boats go by. We invited friends of Linda's from Seattle to join us for dinner with my parents at our house. We caught up on each other's lives. Unfortunately, Jim & Caroline couldn't be with us.
Linda cutting into the Sacher Torte which she brought from Vienna. We shared it with her friends from Seattle (who are originally from Germany, and are HUGE opera lovers and fans)
Salmon and BBQ ribs for dinner at our house
With Linda and friends on our deck
Linda makes me laugh, really hard. Most of her singing roles are serious, and she is a highly intelligent, well-educated, well-read person, but she has a wicked sense of humor, too. It was a wonderful week with many laugh-out-loud moments. In short, her visit was a gift.

*If you need a smile today, check out this song by James Taylor's ex, Carly Simon. It always used to make me laugh, without fail - perhaps because my mother and I once had an encounter with a baby bat in our cabin.


ChiTown Girl said...

As I was reading about your spectacular time with Linda, I was thinking. "wow, what a gift to have such a great visit!". Then I got to the end, and saw you felt the same way :)

Elizabeth said...

What a wonderful visit you've described and shown us, Karen! I'm woefully ignorant of opera -- in fact, I've never been to one! I do love an aria, though, and this post has reminded me to listen to them more. I love the image of Linda singing for Katie -- how beautiful that must have been.

And, finally, you look so cute in your gold-buttoned blazer back in those early eighties!

Busy Bee Suz said...

That song is really cute...I've never heard of it.
So, the Mermaid at the beginning? I was looking and looking for her, then I realized she must be a plant? You tricked me.
What a gift Linda is! I'm so glad you have wonderful people like her in your life....I was smiling the entire time I read this! Love all the photos...and of course, I teared up reading that she sang the 'best song in the world' {In my opinion} for Katie on her celebration day.
Loved this post!

Kay said...

Such a great friend when you can just pick up where you left off as if you were never apart. What a gift she is! : )

Karla said...

How wonderful!