Archive for the ‘updates’ Category

Frederick Douglass Bicentennial, Garth Fagan Dance, and Hamilton all in one week!

Monday, December 10th, 2018

It has been possibly the most culturally exciting week of our lives! And it was much needed. I haven’t posted in a very long time (but I have been writing, eventually that writing will see the light of day). I often post a year-end blog, with some highlights of the year. I may or may not get to that this year. The three of us carry a lot in the day-to-day (literally, for me and David, lifting Oscar). There is a lot that we have to deal with from an accessibility and advocacy standpoint, and simply managing the day-to-day of living as, or caring for, a person with a disability. We get tired easily, and slog through the multitude of weekly aqua therapy sessions (which O loves, thankfully!), doctor’s appointments, and other obligations. It can be hard to make room for even seeing the people we love, never mind getting out to culturally enriching events.

This week we did it! Three remarkable events in seven days!

On Monday night, we went to the capstone event of the Rochester Frederick Douglass Bicentennial year, Prophet of Freedom: Honoring Frederick Douglass in Word and Song. Keynote speaker was David Blight, historian and author of the brand new Douglass biography. Every single person who graced the stage that night was inspiring.

Here, Ken Morris, great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass (AND great great grandson of Booker T. Washington) greets Oscar. They had met back in April when Ken was in town, and became pals then. (Photo by Chris Christopher)

Here, Ken Morris, great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass (AND great great grandson of Booker T. Washington) greets Oscar. They had met back in April when Ken was in town, and became pals then. (Photo by Chris Christopher)

The event took place on the 171st anniversary of the publication of the first North Star newspaper. A piece of music that was written for Frederick Douglass, on the occasion of him leaving England to return to the Untied States, was played for the first time in 150 years. Ken spoke eloquently, telling the story of his great grandmother who had met Frederick Douglass, and whom he knew as a young boy—sharing that the hands that touched Frederick Douglass also touched his hands, that he is one person away from Frederick Douglass, one person away from history, one person away from slavery. I have heard him tell this story at least three times and every time I get the chills, and tear up.

On stage, beside the speakers, was one of the replicas of the Douglass statue that has been created by artist Olivia Kim in honor of the Bicentennial. The statue was made in the image of the statue that currently stands in Highland Park in Rochester, which is the first monument to an African American anywhere in the US, dedicated in 1899. 13 statues were made to be placed throughout Rochester in key locations that hold an important piece of Douglass history. (More info here: http://www.douglasstour.com/ ). Ken’s mom, seeing this statue for the first time, had an emotional moment with the statue of her ancestor, as she took the stage to speak.

Here is the statue that sits outside Hochstein (the location of Douglass's funeral) in the nighttime snow, after the event.

Here is the statue that sits outside Hochstein (the location of Douglass’s funeral) in the nighttime snow, after the event. Ken Morris’s hands were used to shape the hands of these statues.

I could go on and on about the night, how Carvin Eison, the project director for Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass gave an inspiring welcome, or how Oscar stayed engaged for every minute of David Blight’s hour-long lecture, or how moving it was to hear Thomas Warfield sing Like a Motherless Child in honor of Frederick Douglass, or any number of other things from the evening. It was electrifying, and so inspiring. I have been on the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Committee here in Rochester this year, through my work at Writers & Books, and it has truly been one of the most fulfilling parts of my 2018. I could go on and on about that, too, but my aim is get a post out quickly that also includes two other events…

Thursday night we went to see Garth Fagan Dance. Garth Fagan started his dance troupe 48 years ago, right here in Rochester, and has long since gained international acclaim. He is most famous for choreographing The Lion King, but I knew his work long before that. My mom and I used to usher for his local dance performances when I was a kid, and that’s exactly what David, Oscar, and I did on Thursday.

Appropriately, Oscar and I are both wearing hand-knit items by my mom (my skirt, and Oscar's Greek mythology sweater).

Appropriately, Oscar and I are both wearing hand-knit items by my mom (my skirt, and Oscar’s Greek mythology sweater).

I don’t think enough time has passed for me to have formulated the words—or maybe there aren’t words because the art form is about movement—to describe the power of the evening. There was a beautiful dance honoring the lives lost on 9/11, an amazing new work choreographed by Norwood Pennewell, and there were two very early dances that were revived for the night, one from 1981 that I am certain I have seen before, possibly as a kid, and one from 1978. Those were equally exciting as the brand new tribute to, yes, Frederick Douglass!, that included, in one of the movements, the Olivia Kim statue of Frederick Douglass. The movement alone is incredible, and it always has been so with Garth Fagan. The dances tell stories and evoke emotions in incredible ways. But the way the music, the costumes, and the dancers are all in conversation throughout the pieces is truly brilliant.

This is the first time Oscar had seen Garth Fagan Dance perform, and he was deeply moved. He really enjoyed his post handing out programs to audience members. I think this is something we will have to do again!

This is the first time Oscar had seen Garth Fagan Dance perform, and he was deeply moved. He really enjoyed his post handing out programs to audience members. This is something we will do again!

Another highlight of the evening was running into dancer Guy Thorne, both before and after the performance. We had met him earlier this year when he spoke eloquently at the funeral of the mother of one of Oscar's friends—and we learned that she had been an internationally acclaimed dancer herself, who had also danced with Garth Fagan. Oscar's friend has since moved back to Jamaica, where most of his family lives, and they exchange email from time to time. Running into Guy added to the warmth of the night for us.

Another highlight of the evening was running into dancer Guy Thorne, both before and after the performance. We had met him earlier this year when he spoke eloquently at the funeral of the mother of one of Oscar’s friends—and we learned that she had been an internationally acclaimed dancer herself, who had also danced with Garth Fagan. Oscar’s friend has since moved back to Jamaica, where most of his family lives, and they exchange email from time to time. Running into Guy added to the warmth of the night for us.

And that brings us to Sunday:

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Hamilton!

Last week a contact we have at the Make-A-Wish Foundation got in touch with us to let us know that a donor had donated 4 tickets to Hamilton in Buffalo and she thought of Oscar right away, as she is aware that Oscar is a serious Hamilton fan. Oscar is a serious Hamilton fan. That’s an understatement. He started memorizing the show the day he got the soundtrack, two years ago, and the music has often soundtracked his day since then. Lin-Manuel Miranda has become his hero. We had to jump at this opportunity. The seats were not wheelchair accessible, but they were in the orchestra, and on an aisle, so we decided it was worth doing whatever we needed to (booster seat, cushions, fighting the crowds with a wheelchair), to make it happen, to transfer Oscar into a theatre seat. I didn’t tell anyone about the tickets for fear of jinxing this opportunity (i.e. Oscar getting sick, a major snow storm, etc).

Turns out they were pretty spectacular seats...

Turns out they were pretty spectacular seats…

The fourth seat went to Oscar’s great friend Charlie, whose family first turned us onto Hamilton!

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Of course the show was amazing, to see this music come to life on stage. To have these incredible lyrics that we know inside and out take on a three-dimensional moving shape. It was so fantastic to listen to Oscar and Charlie’s critique on the way home, because as well as I know the show, they know it ten times better, and they could really identify the moments that were very different from the original cast recording—for better or for worse—and we all reveled in the moments that brought the story to life in a way that the music alone can’t. It was truly magical, to be right there in the room where it happens…

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It was just too cold to line up a proper selfie with the sign in perfect alignment, but we tried!

It was just too cold to have the patience to line up a proper selfie with the marquis in perfect alignment, but we tried!

We are a family that values the arts so much, and we prioritize the arts in our lives. But sometimes circumstances or resources don’t always allow us to participate to the fullest extent we might want to. We are deeply grateful for these experiences this week, that pulled us out of the daily grind, and so thankful for the people who made these experiences possible for us.

What a week!

On Hawking, the Walkout, and Words

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Dr. Stephen Hawking, a professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, delivers a speech entitled "Why we should go into space" during a lecture that is part of a series honoring NASA's 50th Anniversary, Monday, April 21, 2008, at George Washington University's Morton Auditorium in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul. E. Alers)

I awoke on Wednesday to the news of Stephen Hawking’s passing. I immediately wanted to add my voice to the chorus on social media celebrating his life. But language stopped me. My first thought was, “Our world has lost one of its greatest minds.” That is an acceptable thing to say about someone who is able-bodied. But to refer to someone who is disabled as “a mind” makes their body invisible, and promotes ableism. I would have to reframe my thoughts. Also I wanted to link to an article from a reputable news source. The first site I visited said that Hawking “suffered” from ALS. To assume someone with a disability “suffers” is ableist. Just like using the phrase “confined to a wheelchair.” My child has a neuromuscular condition, and gets around in a power wheelchair. If you have spent time with him, you know he does not suffer. Nor does he feel confined. These are assumptions made about the disabled from the outside.

I forget these are things I didn’t use to know. Things that I need to say because other people do not know them yet, and it is important. The language we use to describe one another matters. Especially when it is the privileged using language to describe someone who is part of a marginalized community.

I skimmed articles from three or four other news sources and was thrilled that “suffered” only appeared in one. And nowhere did I see the word “confined.” This is progress. Some of the stories did seem to think that part of Hawking’s legacy included the Academy Award given to an able-bodied actor for portraying Hawking in a film. And here we come to another problem. “Why?” you might be asking. Why is it a problem that an able-bodied person plays a person with a disability? You think to yourself, Well, Eddie Redmayne did do a very good job. And so I ask you this: when was the last time you saw a disabled actor play an able-bodied character in a major motion picture or on network television? You’re stumped, right? So, if actors with disabilities can’t play people without disabilities, and they can’t even play people with disabilities, then what work are actors with disabilities getting? That’s a problem.

There were plenty of other concerning posts and news stories, some suggesting that he was brilliant in spite of his disability, that it was miraculous that he had a sense of humor and a zest for life considering his circumstances. One illustration showed his empty wheelchair with communication device parked amidst the stars and an unrecognizable silhouette of a man walking out into the cosmos. As if he is now free, fixed. Folks let’s face it, there was nothing broken about Stephen Hawking.

So what is it that made Stephen Hawking stand out? Why did he have such an impact? Sure, he was a brilliant scientist. He made revolutionary predictions and discoveries about black holes—in fact that they are not entirely black—that they emit radiation. This was revolutionary in physics. But it’s more than that. It’s that he brought science to the people, made it more approachable. And perhaps he did the same for disability—in being this iconic figure who also used a wheelchair and a communication device.

Something else significant happened on Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of students across the country walked out of their schools to protest gun violence. This was the largest student protest in this country since the Vietnam War protests in the 1960’s. It feels significant to me that these two events coincided. The passing of this brilliant and important human, and children and teens banding together to have their voices heard. The past gives way to the future. Stephen Hawking began his important work as a very young man. History shows that youth are the future, that youth make waves and make way for the future. 

As far as I know, nine-year old Oscar does not know about the walkouts, does not know about the March for Our Lives scheduled for March 24. People who know we have attended some marches in the past year have asked if we are attending. I don’t want my child to have to know that children have been gunned down again and again and again in their schools over the last handful of years. I don’t want my child to be afraid. His school practices lockdown drills in case “bad guys” get in, and that hypothetical is enough.

Oscar has said several times in the last few months, “We’ve been to a women’s march, we’ve been to a science march, we’ve been to a climate march, and we’ve been to a race march. When are we going to go to a disability march?” He says, “It’s my kind our president makes fun of. I want to go to a disability march.”

I saw posts from friends with disabilities on Facebook indicating what a role model Stephen Hawking had been to them as children, because he was the first famous person with a disability in the public eye they could really look up to. Could see themselves represented in. Another news story suggested he was as brilliant as he was because of his disability. That he had to do things differently than others—he couldn’t write his theories and equations on a chalkboard like his peers, which enabled him to think in a completely different way.

Maybe there is no relationship between Stephen Hawking’s passing and the student walk-out. Maybe they are just two random events that happened on the same day, that both occupied space in my head and heart that day. But they are now tied together in my memory.

I leave you with Stephen Hawking’s words:

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

Wrapping up the 2017 Chapter

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Reading has informed much of our year. Oscar and I spent many of his third grade mornings reading the Percy Jackson series, a modern-day Greek Mythology adventure, out loud while we waited for his bus to come. We looked forward to our reading time every day and plowed through the first book, and quickly moved on to the others. Oscar talked about it often and convinced David he should read the series. By the time Oscar and I got partway through the fifth and final book, David caught up with us. So, one weekend in the spring the three of us snuggled up on the couch and finished the series out loud together.

And in the fall, the day after Oscar’s 9th birthday, Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, came to Rochester and we had the opportunity to hear him speak.

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Above: They gave out t-shirts to everyone who attended the event! Right: We arrived two hours early in hopes of getting in to the “sold out” free event, and it worked!

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I have always loved reading out loud—so much so that before Oscar was born, I developed a class for young children that was based entirely on me reading many picture books out loud (and then doing  some projects around them). Once Oscar was born, we started reading to him almost immediately, and delighted for many years in the range of picture books we enjoyed together. By the end of first grade, Oscar was reading to himself fully independently, and he no longer wanted to be read to. David and I were so proud, and also completely crushed. Here was our child engaging independently in this activity that means so much to us as individuals, but here he was, no longer willing to have us be a part of reading. Luckily, after a few months time, he regained his willingness to be read to.

When he was younger Oscar used to scare easily, and we’d always have to look ahead in a book so he could be prepared for what was coming, or he would watch shows sometimes with the sound off, so as to not get startled (and for the most part he did not watch movies at all until his third grade teacher introduced the class to Willy Wonka—then his interest in movies took off). So, I hadn’t been sure what would happen when we started Percy Jackson, if it would be a little too much for him. And there were times he didn’t want to read it right before bed. But once we got through the first or second book, his threshold for edge-of-your-seat adventures had increased significantly.

Partway through reading Percy Jackson, we started talking about the idea of reading Harry Potter. Oscar had heard so much about the books over the years, and was fascinated by them, but had known they would be too scary when he was younger. David and I had always looked forward to the time when we would read the Harry Potter books out loud to Oscar, because we are such big fans ourselves. In fact, I mentioned this idea of us reading the books to him so many times over the years, I worried I said it so often that when the time came he would want read them on his own just to spite me. Once we finished Percy Jackson we took a bit of a break from reading out loud together, but were still thinking about the idea of starting Harry Potter before too long.

One early spring morning, just as Oscar was getting on the bus—he was already on the lift raising up—he says, “Oh by the way, Mr. Bozek is going to start reading Harry Potter to the class today.” I was dumbfounded. This couldn’t possibly be true! (Later that morning I wished I had taken him off the bus and started Harry Potter with him right then and there!). But it was true, and it catapulted us into a Harry Potter reading frenzy! His class read the first chapter that day and we read the second chapter that night. The next day in school they read the second chapter and the first part of the third. Since the third chapter is when all the letters from Hogwarts magically arrive, I insisted on re-reading it aloud, much to Oscar’s chagrin, and then we read the fourth chapter. All week it was like a race to stay ahead of the class, but the weekend allowed us to plow forward. And re-reading each chapter in school was a delight to Oscar because his teacher had the illustrated version, and brought another level of magic to the story.

Oscar loved the book as much as we hoped he would. He talked about it constantly and regularly forecasted what he thought might happen next. We wasted no time diving into the second book, and then the third. We took a short break before starting the fourth, and another break before we started the fifth, which we are currently reading.

Diagon Alley!

Diagon Alley!

So naturally, when we went to the SMA conference this year, which was in Orlando, we took a day to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. We spent 12 hours there, and all three of us were mesmerized by the magic of it all. Even my mom, who has not read the Harry Potter books, was pretty impressed. Oscar was so dazzled and delighted (and truth be told, I was pretty wide-eyed with a child’s wonder myself), and that day remains one of the main highlights of Oscar’s year, for sure!

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Unveiling of the wand.

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Oscar and Ghi Ghee inside King’s Cross station, on platform 9 3/4.

 

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HOGWARTS!

 

 

And naturally when it came time to plan Oscar’s birthday party, he knew he wanted it to be Harry Potter-themed. Since I run the youth programs at Writers & Books, and since we run a Harry Potter camp every summer where we turn our entire building into a version of Hogwarts, it was easy enough to borrow some things from work, in addition to creating some of our own wizarding world decorations, in order to decorate our house.

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Professor McGOnagall, Professor Dumbledore, and Harry Potter even made appearances at his party.

Professor McGonagall, Professor Dumbledore, and Harry Potter even made appearances at his party.

 

 

 

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And then when Halloween came around, he knew he wanted to be his favorite character from the books: Sirius Black. And he decided he should be riding a hippogriff, naturally. Luckily, one of Oscar’s friends was a hippogriff for Halloween two years ago and the family generously offered to let us borrow their exquisite hand-made wings, and mask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David and I had some exciting literary experiences this year, also. I continued working, for a second year, with my creative nonfiction writing class/group. In February I attended the AWP conference (basically the largest writers conference that exists) for the first time. Here I am with Nadia and Julie, two of the writers from my amazing writing group/class, waiting for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates to start their talk (one of the highlights of the conference for sure).

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And this year, after having been part of the cast of Listen to Your Mother: Rochester in 2016, I joined the production team with this incredible group of women. It is remarkable to me to be a part of a production that showcases the two things I care most about in this world: motherhood and the writing/telling of true stories. (Save the date for May 12, 2018 and visit www.rocthemic.org for more info)!

Corrie, Sarah, Sally, Monica, & Emily

At he beginning of 2017 David set himself a writing challenge to work on certain short story projects each month and made some great headway. And this fall David had the chance to meet one of his favorite authors, Michael Chabon, who came to town for the Jewish Book Festival:

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In addition to Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, here are some of the other books one or more of us has especially enjoyed reading this year: Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Moon Glow by Michael Chabon, The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, No Man’s Land by Eula Biss, Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, The Last Apprentice (Revenge of the Witch) by Joseph Delaney, Wing and Claw: Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park.

We look forward to more adventures, literary and otherwise, in 2018.

 

More highlights from 2017

Attending the Women’s March in Seneca Falls (birthplace of women’s rights) with dear friends:

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Amazing Teachers:

Oscar attended the Special Olympics for the first time this year, and while the event he participated in was disappointing (the whole day was disorganized and Oscar raced against manual chair users—no contest), the highlight of his day was that his third grade teacher attended and spent much of the day racing him on the track!

Oscar attended the Special Olympics for the first time this year, and while the event he participated in was disappointing (the whole day was disorganized and Oscar raced against manual chair users—no contest), the highlight of his day was that his third grade teacher, Mr. Bozek, attended and spent much of the day racing him on the track!

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And here is Oscar with his fourth grade teacher, Mr. Ranney. Brighton has blown us away with incredible teachers every single year. Oscar’s added bonus this year is that he gets to bond with his teacher as a fellow wheelchair user!

 

Big Birthdays! Both my parents celebrated their 70th birthdays this year and we had a wonderful time throwing them each parties. (Though failed to get any group shots during the parties showing each of their amazing groups of friends from over the years).

My dad's brother and sister both surprised him by driving up from Baltimore for the celebration!

My dad’s brother and sister both surprised him by driving up from Baltimore for the celebration!

Happy Birthday Ghi Ghee!

Happy Birthday Ghi Ghee!

 

4th grade is providing great opportunities for Oscar to explore the musical talents he has inherited from David. He is playing percussion in instrumental music and has joined 4th grade chorus!

4th grade is providing great opportunities for Oscar to explore the musical talents he has inherited from David. He is playing percussion in instrumental music and has joined 4th grade chorus!

 

Attending the Mark Bradford show at the Hirshhorn in DC was a major art highlight for David this year—and Oscar & I loved it, too!

We continue to travel at least once a year to Johns Hopkins to see SMA specialists in neurology and pulmonology. This year, at the conference, we ran into Dr. Tom Crawford, Oscar's neurologist, in Disneyworld!

We continue to travel at least once a year to Johns Hopkins to see SMA specialists in neurology and pulmonology. This year, at the conference, we ran into Dr. Tom Crawford, Oscar’s neurologist, in Disneyworld!

 

 

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Oscar’s 3rd year at MDA camp was spectacular, once again. His new counselor this year, Michelle, was amazing, and has continued to stay closely connected to our family since camp!

And we are delighted to still have silly opportunities with Briana, Oscar's camp counselor from the first two years, and her fiance (CONGRATS!), Brad!

And we are delighted to still have silly opportunities with Briana, Oscar’s camp counselor from the first two years, and her fiance, Brad! (Congrats!!!)

 

 

Great times at Keuka Lake with dear friends this summer!

Oscar pretends to drive the boat during our great weekend at Keuka Lake with dear friends this summer!

Viewing the eclipse!

Viewing the eclipse!

Oscar continues to love the pool and do amazing work twice each week—he now swims his full 45-minute session with no flotation device at all!

Oscar continues to love the pool and do amazing work twice each week—he now swims his full 45-minute session with no flotation device at all!

 

 

 

 

We finally got to meet our incredible cousin Ruth this summer!

We finally got to meet our incredible cousin Ruth this summer!

Music in Our Family

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Tonight, I was reminded about a blog post I’ve been meaning to write, as I heard the conversation coming from Oscar’s room at bedtime out to the kitchen where I was repairing one of the harness straps on Oscar’s power chair (it took geometry and tweezers to do it, I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing it in the space of about ten minutes). I’ve been meaning to write about music in our family. The conversation was Oscar telling David with surprise that most of his friends don’t like rap, and the few that do like artists Oscar has never heard of. He went on to say, with a real tone of incredulousness and disappointment in his voice, that none of his friends had ever heard of Run-D.M.C. I could feel David’s pride in his boy from all the way down the hall.

Music has been in David’s blood since he was little. It is the thread that has run through everything about his life since he used to examine his dad’s Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones record covers (yes, I mean vinyl) as the music played when he was younger than Oscar. I could go on and on about this—the many ways music has mattered to David, but I was reminded via an email exchange with my writing group this morning that a blog post can be something dashed off without too much work, too much craft, and in under 750 words. I forget this sometimes. I think that’s why it’s been so long since I have posted.

I will tell you this—in 1994 when David and I first met, one of the first things that happened is that he loaned me his REM CD Automatic for the People. It wasn’t until later that I learned what a big deal this was. David didn’t loan CDs to anyone, and he most certainly did not loan REM CDs to anyone. To this day I still love that record.

I wanted to write in the fall to tell you that we took Oscar to his first concert. We did it our style—meaning we drove out of town to hear a band that meant a great deal to all three of us—all the way to Detroit to hear the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Oscar came into the world listening to them, and for a solid year when he must have been about 5, he fell asleep listening to them every night.

The concert was in a stunning 1920’s theatre with dragons carved into the walls, enormous deities flanking the sides of the stage and ornate chandeliers in the lobbies and performance hall. The sound was perfect—we had brought protective headphones in case it was too loud for Oscar, but the balance was perfect. There was a stunning light show which varied with every song and moved throughout the evening with a pitch-perfect fluidity. And the music exceeded every expectation we had—and David and I had seen them once before, so our expectations were pretty high. The show ended at 10:45 and we walked the 15 minutes back to our hotel, stopping at the corner store for a snack on the way. We floated home all 300 miles the next day. We couldn’t have provided a better first concert experience for Oscar.

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And then it hit us: how will we ever follow this up? His first concert was perfect. It will only be downhill from here.

Less than two months later a series of miracles (including several remarkably generous and kind individuals—one of whom was my mom—and one in particular who pulled some incredible strings) came together, and three tickets to Yo-Yo Ma, playing with our own RPO, materialized. Oscar listens to Bach’s cello suites, as played by Yo-Yo Ma every night as he falls asleep, and asks us in the middle of the night to start the CD over. This has been true for at least 2 years now. When we first heard he was coming to town we tried to get tickets. I even tried a back channel when the traditional route didn’t work. We resigned ourselves to the fact that Yo-Yo Ma would be in town, but that we would not be able to see him.

As it turned out, we had seats in the dead center of the orchestra, just far enough to have a clear picture of the full scope of the stage, but close enough to truly see his expressions as he played. Watching the way he embodied the music, and truly collaborated with all the other musicians on stage was nothing short of a gift. And he played one of the Bach cello suites as an encore! The next gift came when Oscar and I were given tickets to the private reception after the concert and Oscar got to meet Yo-Yo Ma. When Oscar told him that he listened to the cello suites every night, Yo-Yo Ma said, “Those are my favorite.”

I don’t know if most kids would understand the magnitude of getting to meet one of the world’s most renowned musicians, but days leading up to the concert Oscar kept saying, “I can’t believe I get to MEET him. Getting to see him is amazing enough, but I’m going to get to MEET him.” He was on cloud nine, and for quite some time after the show as well. He has a framed photo on his night table of him and Yo-Yo Ma that the RPO took. And I snapped a few with my phone…

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Since then Oscar has started listening to Hamilton and has memorized most of it. He says he wishes he could just bump into Lin-Manuel Miranda on the street, start singing Hamilton with him, and then take him to lunch (“He seems like such a nice guy, you know what I mean?” Oscar says regularly). He does love Run-D.M.C., Mos Def, Tribe Called Quest. He’s been a Beatles fan since he was a year old. And his first favorite music was Charles Mingus—at five months if we put on one particular Mingus album Oscar would stop whatever he was doing and stare at the speaker. I’m proud of my boy’s eclectic and thoughtful taste in music. And deeply grateful for David in the way he helps foster that in our family.