We’ve been learning my parents’ favorite old hymns, and making recordings for them…My mom ruined this particular song for me for all of eternity by saying she wanted us to sing it at her funeral. Thanks, Mom.
According to my mother, the only reason she ever regretted not teaching us Korean was that we could never appreciate my dad’s sermons. I grew up hearing my dad preach every Sunday, but never understanding a word. As you might imagine, Sunday mornings were a kind of mild torture for me. I would zone out through the sermon and the endless prayers, (so very many prayers!). My only relief came whenever it would be time to sing a hymn. I knew every hymn we sang, because I’d been singing them with my family my whole life.
My mother’s fondest fantasy was that we would be the Korean Von Trapps. She even went so far as to make us matching purple crushed velvet pantsuits out of entirely unsuitable heavy curtain fabric. In her fanciful vision, we would trudge together in velvet splendor through some alpine landscape singing in close harmony not Edelweiss or Do-Re-Mi, but Amazing Grace and What a Friend We Have in Jesus! The closest we ever came to fulfilling my mom’s most cherished dream was during church services. My dad never remembered to turn off his microphone, and his booming voice would fill the chapel. My mother would sing the alto part to my dad’s melody in her beautiful and powerful voice. My siblings and I would play supporting roles, singing in English while the rest of the congregation sang in Korean.
For me, my inability to speak Korean was never more painful than when my grandparents came to visit us. I felt acutely that they were bitterly disappointed that we couldn’t communicate with them. On one of their occasional visits, my grandfather took his customary guest turn at the pulpit and suddenly broke out into song in the middle of his sermon. His rich a cappella voice reverberated around the small chapel and roused me from my usual Sunday morning reverie. I knew the song he was singing, because I’d sung it with my own family hundreds of times. Higher Ground connects me to my childhood, and always makes me think of my father and grandfather.
Dad at the pulpit in 1984
My grandpa at the pulpit in 1984
My father preaching at my grandfather’s church in Korea.
When my friend told me she’d been doing quarantine hymn sings with her in-laws over FaceTime, I knew my parents would love this idea, and I knew Higher Ground was one of the songs we had to sing. My husband and kids learned the hymn and we made this recording for my parents:
It was such a joy to work on this song with my family. Now if only I knew how to sew! I’m sure I could rustle up some old curtains we don’t need anymore…
In honor of the first day of Fall: a farewell to a summer of transitions.
The first frame shows my oldest with his siblings, celebrating his high school graduation. After trips to New York City, Cape May, and let’s not forget: Bumpass, we dropped our son off for his first semester of college in Manhattan, a city dear to our hearts because it’s where his dad and I met as graduate students. A short while after, my college friends and I got together for our annual reunion. I like to imagine my son someday in the future getting together with the friends he’ll be making in the next few years. A week after my college mini-reunion, I flew to California to attend the wedding of a childhood friend. I stayed with another mutual dear friend, and together we celebrated a beautiful wedding and a lifelong friendship that has weathered all kinds of life changes – big and small, sad and joyous. The last frame of the video is from this morning. After my second son passed his driver’s test and officially got his driver’s license, he drove me home, and then banged out this song with me. It’s one I used sing to each of my babies as a lullaby…
A few years ago, after another trip away from home, I recorded this song I used to sing to my babies every single night. I was sitting on my back porch and I love that you can hear the birds singing along in the background. I loved being in the city, but it’s good to be home again.
Yesterday afternoon, we managed to record a song for our annual holiday video, just before hitting the road to spend New Year’s Eve with my family in Arlington. Like a lot of things my family does, it was thrown together at the last minute, the process was rather stressful, and the product imperfect. Still, we did it together, and despite some grumpy moments, we did it with love. My son contributed one of his compositions to finish out the video.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful, wonderful 2018 full of peace, love, and not too many grumpy moments!
Batman’s wife, who once had a youthful dalliance with The Man in the Yellow Hat, is having an affair with Robin…
Call Me Jezebel
Hurl your stones and call me Jezebel.
You have no idea what a living hell
It is to be married to the Prince of Darkness.
Would it kill him to leave one lousy light on, I think
As I grope my way to the kitchen for a drink,
Praying I don’t wake that damn butler, (“His Highness”)
I could swear today I saw the old toady look at me and sneer,
As he purred – sotto voce – in his beloved master’s ear.
Then off He swooped – all dark glamour and leather menace,
Gunning the engine of that sleek monstrosity –
A monument to selfishness and impracticality,
Bordering on sheer malice.
How are we supposed to fit a car seat in that thing?
I asked him once, but that was in the beginning…
Before I gave up buying lamps and looking for windows to open.
So maybe I was a fool for trading in the sun for the moon:
The boy next door, who came to call on me one afternoon
Yellow hat in hand, tall and slim and soft-spoken.
Dazzling in his golden wholesomeness, he asked me to wait for him.
But when he ambled back, with a pet monkey peeking from under his hat brim,
My chiropteran Lucifer had long since swept me up under his black wing.
They tell me he still lives alone in that fairy tale house of his,
But can you blame me? Who wouldn’t be suspicious
Of a grown man who shares his bed with a monkey? In traitorous spring,
I’ll admit, I called him, one bitter, lonely night
But when he answered, half-choking with delight-
I hung up: on him, on a life half-lived, half-loved, then lightly betrayed.
He was the bright peddler of my fondest, callow dream,
Too soon outgrown and cast downstream.
But sometimes I used to wonder, should I have stayed?
Until the night I saw a boy with a bird’s soul and name.
(A harbinger of my Spring?) He was awash in moonlight and aflame
With reverence for the Devil himself: my husband.
Dynamic duo? Hardly! He suffers the boy to trail starry-eyed in his wake,
Chirping sophomoric punchlines that would make your teeth ache
Like a mere sidekick: Sancho Panza or Doctor Watson.
But it’s this bejeweled bird who casts the unjaded, vital glow
That fleshes out and deepens his black shadow
And in so doing, animates the demon’s chiaroscuro!
It’s true I chose him for a ripe and gratifying vengeance
But in his guileless, openhearted innocence
I found light and sweet consolation…Oh, I know
It torments him. He weeps and talks of betrayal
I cover his mouth with my own – to no avail.
The words I whisper fall glib and hollow.
I tell him we are necessary to one another,
Each to each: an unholy trinity. (Father, Brother, Sister? Mother?)
This tripartite union is our shared lot. It is our fortune.
Not for me the storybook house with shutters and flower filled window boxes.
I’ll live out my life here, in a mansion built over a cave, breathing air foul and noxious,
Befitting an unworthy chorus member in a gothic cartoon.
I’ve relinquished the sun,
Sold my soul to the moon.
But I’ll never give up my starlight.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m republishing some of my past posts about love…My first repost is my rendition of My Funny Valentine(s), featuring Tallis and Chloe, my cute, but rotten dogs. They’re still not 100% housebroken, they tend to yap, and they’re exceedingly lazy. But we love them anyway: