Archive for November, 2014

Beethoven’s 1st and 4th symphonies

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

When I woke Sunday morning, a text message from my mom was waiting in my phone:

Sounds like peeps in Sugar Land are sick. Are you or Bill available for HSO tomorrow 2pm?

Although I haven’t listened to much classical music since high school in the 1980s, and I’ve played even less, I do enjoy attending the symphony, and going with my mom is a treat. Jean told me they would perform Beethoven’s 1st and 4th symphonies, and I remembered that Gran’mom especially enjoyed Beethoven. Bill agreed to cover naptime so I could go.

Jean and Bob en route to Jones Hall

As Bill came outside to snap this photo of me and my mom, a lone monarch butterfly appeared out of nowhere. It swooped toward us, then just as abruptly, flitted away. I immediately thought of Gran’mom, and I turned to see if Mom had seen it too. Her eyes met mine and she smiled, and I knew she was thinking of Gran’mom, too.

* * *
Houston’s symphony has a new music director — Andres Orozco-Estrada — who is not only more animated and visibly enthusiastic than Hans Graf, but also reassuringly beats his baton in rhythm with the piece. He’s fun!

Andres Orozco-Estrada

Beethoven’s 1st symphony in C major is a cheerful piece and it sounds Beethoven-y. I enjoyed it, and intend to seek out a recording of it so I can listen again. Beethoven’s 4th is striking in how light and modest it seems compared to his 3rd, 5th, and 9th symphonies. The program quoted his contemporary, Schumann, who described it as a “slender Grecian maiden between two Nordic giants,” and I can kind of see that.

The middle piece of today’s concert was a Schumann cello concerto in a minor key. I liked it well enough, although my appreciation of the tone and tenor of cellos goes most of the way toward enjoyment before the specifics of a given piece.

HSO cellist Brinton Averil Smith

* * *
When I was a teenager, my mom brought us to see Houston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. Later, in honor of my 20th birthday, she brought me to see Swan Lake. (She also gave me a bouquet of 20 pink roses in a vase that I just used to start some paperwhite narcissus bulbs that we bought together at Buchanan’s this afternoon.)

I played the flute from 4th grade through high school, and as a senior, I earned first chair and solos in symphonic band. So I got to hear our “symphony” perform every spring.

But I’m pretty sure it was Gran’mom who brought me to my first real symphony performances. In 1998, I was single and working for Plaut as an SAP implementation consultant. I was working in rural Georgia and most weekends I came home to my parents’ house in Galveston. (I needed a tax home in Texas and it seemed silly to pay a lot of rent for an apartment I’d only use 10-12 days a month. So I paid a little rent to my parents and enjoyed their company, too!)

My client paid for me to fly home to Texas every Thursday, but several times I flew to Florida instead, to play with Gran’mom. That fall, she bought a pair of season tickets to the Orlando Symphony and I scheduled a couple of visits so that I could attend the matinees with her. I recently unearthed the letter in which she wrote me excitedly to say she had our tickets. Gran’mom thought of me as her “little playmate.”

I just remember how sophisticated she made me feel. I didn’t think either the suits or the khaki pants and sweaters I wore to work were appropriate attire for concerts, so she took me shopping along Winter Park Ave. She introduced me to Ann Taylor, where I found the pale green silk pant suit that I later wore to the rehearsal dinner before our wedding. I also found my slinky black ankle-length opera dress.

She prepared delicious meals with fresh, local ingredients, introduced me to meat seared in herbes de Provence, and taught me to appreciate chardonnay. She read the newspaper and Newsweek, watched the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and wrote letters to the editor and to her Congressman. She listened to classical music and made me feel special.

* * *
As I sat in Jones Hall this afternoon, immersed in the 4th Symphony, I was struck by how incredibly lucky I was to have Gran’mom dote on me. I really miss her. And she would have enjoyed the Beethoven today.

New content

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

It’s been about three months since I managed to post any complete thoughts here. Between the girls starting preschool and me starting a new job, there just isn’t much time.

That said, I’ve just gone back and filled in some details from August, including Tibbs’ death, my very-sweet 43rd birthday, and the girls’ first day at Becker. Thanks for reading!

Pecan season!

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

In his book, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston, Dr. Bob Randall observed that, unless you set a pecan tree well apart from aerial access and defend it mightily, small furry critters are likely to capture the lion’s share of its fruit. He had me convinced, and yet… not so!

With this lovely run of cool nights in the 40s and warm sunny days in the 60s, pecans are just raining out of our trees. In the last 4 or 5 days we’ve collected more than 7 pounds of nuts from the ground beneath our three trees. And collecting ground-level nuts is a fantastic task for a pair of motivated 3-year-olds!


Sunday afternoon, Cate and Sam collected about 3 pounds of pecans from the deck, the back yard, and — as Sam put it — “going on an adventure” behind the garage. They then went out front to run, toss around a box of tissues, flop off of the inflatable whale, and wrestle in the grass.

Sam and Cate

Frolicking on Fairview

Saturday in the life…

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Friday evening, we had girls in bed around 8 pm and didn’t hear a peep until Sam woke us at 6:50 am. Bill and I stayed up too late to appreciate our early bird, but long quiet sleep is still a most-welcome development!

Saturday morning, Cate declared for hotdogs (organic, nitrite/ate-free, beef) for breakfast, and Daddy Bill was home and happy to oblige, along with some fresh mangled eggs. And coffee for us parents.

After breakfast, we tackled a small project, and converted our hall bathtub into a hall closet. We’re super short on space and that tub is a lost cause* so… we borrowed a page out of Papa Chuck’s playbook. Bill cut some 1″-plywood to fit and now there’s a deck over the tub, ready for storing boxes as we begin to pre-pack books, etc. for moving in 2015.

While Bill was in the garage sawing lumber, the girls and I puttered out back. Cate worked a broom and Sam worked a rake, rearranging leaves on the deck.

*During the drought several years ago, the original cast-iron sewer pipe under that original bath cracked open, and the repair would have required paying a fortune to let the plumber destroy the deck that our friends built us for our wedding.

Big, beautiful Saturday

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Nine months ago today, I wrote about an epic Saturday we enjoyed with our girls. Today was another like it, with many of the same wonderful elements.

After our first-ever trick-or-treat outing together last night, girls were up until 10 pm and Bill and I were up later still. Girls slept well overnight but when they woke me at 7 am, I was still tired. Bill joined us in the kitchen a little later to warm some tortillas and scramble eggs for tacos.

We woke to the first morning of “winter” in Houston — clear, sunny, and in the low 50s — just cool enough for the heat to run. After breakfast, rather than going out, Cate declared for watching videos together on the couch under the kitty blanket. So we rewatched Disney’s most-recent feature, Frozen, for the second time (it’s growing on me), and for the first time in forever, we fired up the projector and introduced Cate and Sam to The Big Screen.

Do you want to build a snowman?

After some pumpkin play, some chalk on a big box, and a token lunch, Cate started to fuss and admitted she was too tired to eat anymore. So we pottied, donned jammies, read The Littlest Pumpkin and put girls in cribs. They went down for good two-hour naps almost immediately, and Bill even got a nap before we were done.

When the girls woke, they asked to take their blue bicis for a bike-walk around the neighborhood. We walked east along Fairview and then they fairly zoomed up Van Buren to West Drew. We ran into Andres and his wife and three boys, said hi to Mr. Hillary’s snow geese decoys, and continued down to the awning store parking lot where the girls practiced racing around in big circles. We then rode the sidewalk up Montrose far enough to say hi to the Funnel Tunnel before heading home again.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a special opportunity at Hickory Hollow. The first time we heard Tuna Sin perform there, I had no idea that Auntie Emily and Mr. Buck are old friends. Since then, they conspired to recruit Sam, Cate, and me up on stage to sing a song or two. The first time, we regaled the audience with our “A, B, C…”s. A few weeks ago, we coordinated in advance to learn and practice, “Deep in the heart of Texas.” Cate and Sam don’t yet have the rhythm of the right, but they memorized every verse and sang ’em right through.

At bedtime, we brushed girl teeth, went potty, and slipped into new winter Hannas I found on eBay.

Do you want to wear the snowflakes?
It’s time to go to bed…
We cannot stay up any more –
we’ll end up on the floor –
and bump our heads…

Then girls climbed into the chair to read Ten Timid Ghosts (which is my new favorite, for its unspoken visual humor) and Happy Halloween, Biscuit. (I sat on the floor because for months now, girls are too tall for me to see over when they sit on my lap!)

After stories, we pottied a final time, put on nighttime diapers, and cuddled briefly as Bill and I sang, “Goodnight Sweetheart, well, it’s time to go… to bed, to bed.” Then into cribs and lights out. I love you, good night!