I’m having a hell of a day. I got into a car accident on the way to a coaching in Dorchester. I’m fine, but the car is less fine. I was having trouble seeing beyond a giant snowbank coming out of a gas station and my car clipped the back bumper of another car. His car was scratched. My car lost a plastic insert for flood lights and the bumper is busted. I’ve spent the afternoon talking with insurance adjusters and making an appointment with an appraiser instead of singing with my coach and voice teacher. I’m annoyed, I’m disappointed in myself, and I’m rattled.
Fortunately, the guy who was driving the other car was a total sweetheart. The car was a rental car, so he had no great attachment to it. We exchanged insurance information easily using our cellphone cameras. I was so flustered by what happened that I accidentally left my driver’s license with him. He drove back to the corner where the accident happened and handed it off. The whole experience could have been a lot worse.
Tonight, I will be singing as a section leader (aka a “ringer”) with the community choir in town. They’re singing the Brahms Requiem, one of my favorite pieces of all time, but I’m not feeling it. I’m sure I’ll feel better about it when I get there, but right now I’m feeling like an angry weasel in a corner, licking its wounds. No driving. No singing. No being out in the world. Bah.
When I feel down, I try to think of things that make me happy. It’s a tough thing to do for me sometimes. So much of what I liked growing up was dictated by my environment. There were up to 8 people living in our house at one time (my parents, my 4 siblings and me, and my grandmother), so there wasn’t a lot of space for individuals. I would spend lots of time playing in the bathroom with the door closed (much to the annoyance of my teenage siblings, I’m sure), because it was the only space where I could truly be alone. I imagined living alone in an imaginary house the size of my bathroom. I figured I’d have everything that I’d need – a sink for washing hands and dishes, a bathtub for bathing and sleeping, a toilet that could convert into a chair… Imagine my surprise when the Tiny House trend became a thing.
In theory, I loved a having a clean bedroom. However, I learned if I didn’t clean my room, then people wouldn’t come into the space when I wasn’t there. Folks liked to hang out in the rooms in the house that were recently tidied. I’d find my brother’s orange peels under my bed or my mother’s ashtray on my bedside table. Nature abhors a vacuum. So did my parents’ house, apparently. There were papers, binders, and books on the dining room table. There was laundry on the chairs. Things got cleaned up, but things got their cleanest when we knew people were coming over for a visit.
I wore hand-me-downs. My fashion sense was dictated by the clothing that I received from my older sisters when they grew out of them. I knew what colors I liked, but I knew that I couldn’t necessarily wear all of them (electric yellow didn’t always play well with my coloring, for instance!). My fashion sense didn’t really go beyond that. Cut? Style? Length? Shrug. I loved sharing a room with my sisters. I have a much closer relationship with them now because we shared a room together growing up. That said, there was little sense of boundaries. I certainly had no sense of them when I was little, and I didn’t understand that borrowing without permission was stealing.
Now that I have my own house, I’m trying to figure out who I am outside of the context of my crowded-but-loving family. What do I like?
- The color turquoise
- Dark denim jeans with elegant shoes
- Composers: Mahler, Brahms, Debussy, Bartok, Ravel, Poulenc
- Silver filigree, Celtic circle designs
- Spare branches with spring leaves
- Crimson silk shantung
- Hayao Miyazaki movies, anime in general
- Round music – Baroque and Romantic
- Mezzo-sopranos and baritones
- Burnished gold, crystal chandeliers, Tiffany glass windows
- John Singer Sargent, the way he paints velvet and flesh
- Full skirts and plunging necklines
- Imperial topaz rings and pendants
- Chrysanthemums and other autumnal flowers
- Dark chocolate and jasmine tea
- Cellos, violas, and French horns
- Salvador Dali and his marvelous melting clocks
- Jean-Pierre Jeunet films – “Amelie”, “The City of Lost Children”
- Guillermo del Toro films – “Pan’s Labyrinth” especially
- Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, Vienna Teng – fierce women with pianos
- Palomino horses, long-haired cats
- Wrap dresses and shirts
- Long hair, curls and waves
- Irises, roses, calla lilies, hyacinths
- Waterford crystal, Lenox china, fussy looking silver cutlery
- Old Hollywood glamour, red lipstick, soft waves, elbow length gloves with cocktail rings
- Ireland… don’t get me started on Ireland…
- Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, St. Stephen’s Green
- Prehistoric Newgrange in County Meath
- Our Lady of Knock’s shrine in County Mayo, where my father’s family is from
- A car with heated seats
- Warm food with rich sauces, soup, hot coffee (manna of the gods), runny fried eggs
- Fresh bread, succulent green vegetables, berries
- Visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and then lounging in Japanese community soaking tubs at the Inman Oasis in the wintertime
- Strength training, Hatha yoga, and Vinayoga – lifting heavy things
- Bel canto singers like Marilyn Horne Lieder interpreters like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hitchcock and Atom Egoyan films, dark and sad narratives
- Shakespeare and sonnets in Iambic pentameter
- Partnered social dance, like swing dancing and English country line dancing
- 1980s geek culture: Tabletop games, Dungeons and Dragons, Freaks and Geeks, Stranger Things
- Children’s books that were really written for adults: Madeleine L’Engle, C. S. Lewis, Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” series
- Hymns from the British Isles: Slane, St. Columba, Thaxted, and Hryfrydol
- Ancient cathedrals and catacombs, tombs, mausoleums, pyramids, gravestones – the monuments to immortality and familial identity
- The luminous moon and her satellite stars (I always felt the universe worked the opposite way – the sun was lonely among the clouds, and the moon had millions of tiny, twinkling friends)
The picture is coming into focus, little by little. I don’t always choose what I like best, but at least I know what some of these things are, what differentiates me from my family and the world around me. It’s taken me years to figure some of this out, and I’m sure it will take me many more years to drill down to the essential themes. At this point, I know that I’m a Romantic with a capital R, I’m embracing my roots as an Irish-American girl, I like to be warm inside and out, I like darker colors and voices, but I also love things that glow, sparkle, and glitter. I read. I listen. I consume. I admire.
(Thanks for indulging me, if you’ve read this far. I’m feeling better already.)