Life is bulging with them - magical moments. If you live long enough you can end up with a nice little pocketful, all different shapes and sizes, colors and sheens. Some people forget they have them and they lay at the bottom of a bucket of sorrowful tears, covered with barnacles of self pity. Others keep them tucked in little journals or diaries. They take them out occasionally and polish them with remembrance until they obtain a nice glowing patina. In the end they get to take them with them, tucked in their pockets, when they jump into heaven. Some are hefty nuggets, obvious life changing moments. And others are sweet little pebbles, like the night all the kids were fed and bathed and in bed and actually sleeping before 9 pm and the dishes were done and there on the tip of your tongue was a new song ready to be born and you had the energy to birth it.
I found a piece today, while scanning the pictures on my computer. A nice little piece in my satchel of memories. Somewhere between a little pebble and a nugget.
It was a magical week that began with a pang of sorrow. We had decided to spend Thanksgiving in Sacramento with my sisters. It was our first Thanksgiving without our mom, and we needed to huddle to get through it. We spent a peaceful day, we of the top layer, the older generation. You get to feeling a little exposed when there is no longer anyone above you in the living genealogical line. The only one of the younger generation that was there was Kate, and that's because she surprised us with a visit (that's another story for another time). We set the table with a red tablecloth, and white napkins tied with red ribbons, into which we had tucked large dried leaves from the sycamore tree that hovers over our mother's grave. Ann Marie gifted each of us with a hot water bottle wrapped in a knitted red cozy, in memory of Gram. We wept and laughed and nibbled until the night came and the blessed dreaded day was over. That Saturday Ann Marie and Michael cleared out their large inviting family room and set up nearly 100 chairs. Ann Marie had baked enough to feed 5,000, all sorts of yummies for which she has become wildly famous in her neck of the woods. They opened their front door and that evening I sang for a warm and welcoming bunch of friends at a Holiday House Concert. Such a treat for me to sing for a new audience.
We drove home through the beautiful Sierra Mountains, back to the foothills we call home. Two days later Dave and I went to Salt Lake City, driving through the twilight to the Governor's Mansion. The mansion was bespangled for Christmas, all a glitter with elegance and charm. The chefs at Backman's Bakery had just finished trimming a large replica of the mansion in fragrant gingerbread. Fresh pine bows draped over the mantelpieces, over crackling fires. Glamorous trees sparkled in every room. The warm lights of that lovely old edifice reflected off polished wood and brass, falling onto soft woven fabric on down filled cushions. We had come upon this invitation:
Greeted by Governor and First Lady Herbert, as well as Lt. Governor Greg and JoLynn Bell, we dined in the intimate dining room at the mansion. Blessed to share the table with our state leaders as well as corporate sponsors from AT&T, Zions bank, and our dear friends "Anonymous" (whom I will say only here are known to me as Lynn and Ann Summerhays of the humble hearts). The table settings were silver chargers, plates and utensils that had been retrieved from the USS Utah, which had sunk in Pearl Harbor. I was seated next to the Governor, who was so friendly and hospitable I felt like an old friend. What a treat!
The Governor's Mansion Artist Award is given a couple times a year to people they deem represent artistic excellence in their fields. I shared the honor with Tom Holdman, a glass artist whose extraordinary work can be seen in public and religious buildings around the world, including many of our sacred temples. Tom and his wife Gail were delightful and down to earth. What an amazing honor to share time and space with such talent, not just artistic talent, but leaders in the public and private sector. The table only seats 16, so it was an intimate feast. But when we were done we were greeted in the grand ballroom by about 100 others who had come to help celebrate. Most important among these were all our children, other family members, and friends, including the Gardners, Fergusons,and Bradburys. We were also surprised to see good friends James and Carole Christensen and Bruce and Mary Smith, fabulous artists. James had been the first to receive the Governors Mansion Artist Award years ago. I am humbled to join artists like James, Donny Osmond, Arnold Friberg, Brian Kershisnik, Mack Wilberg, Fred Adams, Ballet West and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a recipient of this award. Holy Toledo, how did I get on that list!? My friends Mark Robinette, Merlyn Schofield and Kelly DeHaan joined me on stage there in the ballroom. We sang for about 40 minutes, telling the stories behind the songs in between. It was just magical, at least from my vantage point. Afterwards the Governor presented me with a large bronze medallion, and spoke of the great joy he and his family had shared in this ballroom for many Christmases. He mentioned my song You Would Have Loved This, then got choked up as re reminisced about his last Christmas with his father in that very room. It was a rare and tender moment, not represented well in these words. But hopefully the words will trigger the actuality of the memory for my family and me.
The First Lady presented Tom with his award. Both Tom and I spoke briefly, mostly feeble attempts to thank the givers and our families. Afterwards we retreated to the main floor for delicious desserts and mingling. When the fires had turned to embers we offered our thanks and walked back down those grand stairs out into the winter night, that big blue ribbon with an oversized medallion still hanging about my neck. It felt like that final scene of the first act in the Nutcracker Ballet, when all the guests go home from the grand Christmas party, the music of Tchaikovsky playing in the background as we wrapped our cloaks around our shoulders and went out into the night.
Two days later we were back on stage, my friends and I, for the first of three Christmas concerts. These concerts have become an annual event, and I love doing them, mostly because I love the people who come and the people with whom I play. All three performances had sold-out. Seeing "Sold Out" on one of your concerts is always a thrill, until someone you love a lot wants tickets and there aren't any.
The thing I love most about my Christmas concert is that I can be completely myself. Because of the nature of the holiday I am able to testify without offense to anyone. I can sing the songs I have written with full heart and real intent, and I feel as much love coming back to me as I send out when I sing. I hope my concerts are like parables; I hope people can take from them what they want. If all they want is pleasant music, I hope that's what they find. If they want something deeper, I hope they are able to discover that as well. There is nothing in this world like hearing your own creations wrapped in the musicianship and harmonies of talents like Merlyn, Mark and Kelly, or Dave and Carla Eskelsen, Michael Huff or Melanie Shore, with the masterful hands and ears of Eric Robinette at the sound board!
Only one thing could have made the events of that one week in November more magnificent for me. That would have been the presence of our mother. I ached to see her there before me, her snowy white hair capturing the residual light of the stage, her hands folded gently in her lap or dancing to the rhythm, her lips moving with every word to every song. No one knows my songs so well, or sings them with less restraint in public settings. How I miss her.
But she taught me to imagine, and so I do. I imagine her peeking over the edge of heaven, smiling as she sings, blowing kisses as I take my bows.
Time moves forward and we move with it. Some moments are so magical that we are certain we will never ever forget them. And yet, I can attest, we do forget. We move on and we are caught in the moment of the present, as we most often should be. But those nuggets of magic are gifts to us, and we get to keep them if we will do the work to preserve them. And so on an early spring day I retrieve one from my pocket, a magical winter memory. I polish it up with inadequate words and put it back, hoping the sheen will only improve with age.