Golden Chances

This morning while I got ready for work, I listened to Josh Groban’s “Stages” albumI grew up listening to Broadway musicals on my mother’s hi-fi, and knew most of the words to every Rogers and Hammerstein’s show so when “If I Loved You” began, I put down my mascara and paused to remember.

Carousel_theatrical_film_poster_1956One summer night when I was a child, my parents allowed me to stay up late and watch the original version of “Carousel” on our black and white television.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this musical, the original show debuted on Broadway in 1945, and was made into a movie starring Shirley Jones and Gordon Macrae in 1956.  It is a sweet and sad story of a jaded carousel barker and an innocent young millworker who fall in love at a Maine carnival.  The fake New England accents are atrocious.  The acting is stiff. But the dancing and music are stupendous.  It is worth an afternoon on the couch just to watch the choreography.

The real treasures in this movie are the songs.  I distinctly remember trying to hide my tears from my father during “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” He noticed that I was crying, gathered me up in his lap, and told me I should never be afraid of letting my feelings show.  Whenever I recall that moment, my throat tightens and my eyes fill up.  He had no idea how his kindness affected me.

I love all the music to “Carousel,” but for me, the true show-stopper is “If I Loved You.”  Oscar Hammerstein’s simple phrases woven through Richard Rogers’ melodic passages are poignant and speak straight to the soul:

“If I loved you,
Time and again I would try to say
All I’d want you to know.

If I loved you,
Words wouldn’t come in an easy way
Round in circles I’d go!

Longin’ to tell you,
But afraid and shy,
I’d let my golden chances pass me by!

Soon you’d leave me,
Off you would go in the mist of day,
Never, never to know how I loved you
If I loved you.”

 So this morning, when Groban and MacDonald hit the phrase “I’d let my golden chances pass me by!” my eyes began to smart and tear, and it wasn’t from my eye makeup.  Perhaps it is the blending of their two voices; a crystal harmony that hangs midair for a split second before falling to earth.  Or perhaps the sadness of the song brings me back to my childhood memory with my father.  Actually, I think it is influenced by all of the above, but mostly it is the theme of the song- the thought of letting one’s golden chances pass by- that cuts deep into my soul.

Golden chances are everywhere.  They are there when the crickets hush their dance before the thunder of a summer storm splits the sky. They are when we inhale the scent of freshly mown grass.  It’s a golden chance when we take late afternoon stroll with a loved one and watch our shadows stretch across the sidewalk.  Or when we bite into a freshly picked strawberry while it is still warm from the sun. And for sure, it is a golden chance to drowse by the ocean on a sizzling afternoon, drifting to the cadence of the surf and the calling of distant sea gulls.

It is so easy to get caught up in the spinning of our lives’ carousels and so easy to allow golden chances slip through our fingers. How easy it is to be too busy to listen to a first grader stumble through the pages of his reading assignment?  Or too tired to listen to a thirteen year old recount every detail of who danced with whom during her middle school mixer?  Or in too much of a rush to let the elderly person who only has five items in his basket go through the checkout before us?  When was the last time we put down our phone, closed our computer and shut off our TV in favor of listening with an open heart to a loved one?

Thinking about golden chances has changed my life.  I cherish those rare moments when I am with my siblings.  I linger over dinner with a friend.  I look for a chance to be a little kinder.  A bit more thoughtful.  A lot more attentive.

judahLast Saturday while Abby and John did errands, I took care of my two little grandsons.  Judah is four now and Abram fifteen months.  We played with blocks and cars, ate peanut butter sandwiches, and hunted dinosaurs in the dark corners of my apartment.  After lunch I looked at the crumbs on the floor and the half-finished milk warming in Judah’s cup.  I usually don’t sit down until everything is cleaned up and stowed neatly away.  But not this time.  Instead, I captured both wiggly little boys and squished the three of us into my rocker.  I rocked and started to sing old folk songs that my mother had taught me when I was Judah’s age.  The boys snuggled close and relaxed into my arms, their heads swaying gently on my shoulders as we rocked and sang.  Between verses of Bobby Shafto and Lavender Blue, I drank in the scent of these little ones, relishing every breath.  Abram fell asleep. Judah sucked his thumb.  It was thirty minutes of heaven- a golden chance that I will cherish forever. abram

I will probably always tear up when I hear “If I Loved You.”  Too many golden chances have already passed me by.  But we have today, and God willing, tomorrow.  The carousel is turning, the golden ring is just ahead, and my arm is stretched to grab it and never let it go.

Advertisements

Storms of Summer

godspellWhen I was in college, I made a trip home to help my parents celebrate their wedding anniversary.  To mark the occasion, the whole family had tickets to see “Godspell” at a local dinner theater.  As the ten of us gathered around a large table, a stranger who was seated nearby struck up a conversation with my father, and noted the unusually large size of our group.  My father explained that all eight of the kids were his children, and that he and my mother were celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. The man stood, raised his glass and roared, “Twenty-five years and eight kids!  God bless ya!”

It was one of those unforgettable evenings when everything was right in our little world.  My parents were beaming, the food was delicious and the performance was magnificent.  Even my youngest siblings behaved.

I thought about that evening this morning as I readied myself for the day.  I often listen to my IPod while I put on my makeup. The IPod was my mother’s and although it’s been months since she died, I haven’t gotten around to updating the music.  Today, I put in the earbuds and scrolled through music library, stopping at “Godspell.”  It had been years since I’ve listened to the songs from the musical, but hearing the melody was like running into a familiar old friend.

We plow the fields and scatter the good seed o’er the land

But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand.

He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain

The seed time and the harvest, and soft refreshing rain.

All Good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above

So thank the Lord, yes, thank the Lord for all His love…”

“Thank the Lord for all His love.”  I guess I hadn’t done that in a while.  So often my prayers are full of requests- wisdom, guidance, solutions to problems.  I forget sometimes that a large part of prayer is thanking.

It’s been a rough summer, fraught with numberous challenges- physical, financial and emotional.  As I’ve done for the past thirty-five years, I’ve prayed my way through the storms, asking God for solutions.  And as always, we’ve come through the other side intact, but I feel battered and bruised.  Tears lurk just behind my eyes, and although I stay busy and engaged, my heart yearns to run to a place where I can find solace.  And summer-my time for regeneration, for laughter in the sun, for dancing in the waves and celebrating life- has let me down.

I spent this week on vacation, and as I often do, spent time on the beach.  From my beach3faded canvas chair, I sat alone and  watched the waves swell and crash, turning from gray to green to frothy white.  The seascape never remains the same. The barren landscape, carved by the relentless sea, never remains the same.  I watched as an abandoned sandcastle crumble when hit by the pounding surf, and a lump caught in my throat.  My sandcastle.  Gone in an instant because of some unexpected wave.

“Why can’t life just stay still?  Why do moments of joy so quickly dissolve into faded photographs and hazy memories?”   My cries were drowned by the calling of a gull and the crashing of the sea, and I wondered if my questions would forever go unanswered.

But, as always, the answers came.  Life must change.  I know what would happen if the sea suddenly ceased to rise and fall.  Stagnant waters would become diseased. Plants and animals would become sick and die.  The movement of the seas, the changing of the landscape, and the tides of our lives must continue.

Slowly, I have come bsuitedto realize that summer did not let me down. Summer changed me.  Those sand castles I had built were not ever meant to stay.  And the storms of this summer?  Like the movement of the sea, they were to cleanse me, to move me, to keep me alive.

So today, a crisp September morning, I can say again that all gifts from God are good gifts, and the storms of summer are no exception.

“So thank the Lord, yes, thank the Lord…for all His love.”

%d bloggers like this: