One family

Inspired by the movie, “The Hours,” based on the Michael Cunningham novel.

Yalda was the painter in the family. She was the youngest of six sisters. The other five were dancers. Her mother encouraged her to dance. When her father saw her watching him paint, he thought she might be an artist. Gabriel wasn’t opposed to dancing. It was just that it would be nice if one of the girls took up his passion.

He showed her the ropes. How to hold a brush. How to make it fly across the canvas. How to mix colors to get the results she wanted.

Her sisters were not unhappy about Yalda. Five dancers in the family was enough they thought. It was different for their mother. She wanted all her daughters to follow in her footsteps. She would choreograph the dancers. The daughters would dance them. This disappointment festered with the mother.

“C’mon, Mom,” her oldest begged. “You’ve got us. Let Yalda do her own thing.” She was beginning to realize that her mother might not be the encourager she always thought.

“I’m trying,” her mother said and hugged her daughter. “But I can’t help it.”

“You’ve got us,” her second daughter said. She was always the quiet one. But it was important that she speak up now.

Her mother hated the way she felt. It was even causing a wedge in her marriage. Her husband had never objected to her encouraging the daughters to dance. But he had realized that her obsession was not healthy. He kept his mouth shut and let his daughters do the talking.

Then one day, Yeta, his fifth daughter, came to him. She was crying. “Mom is going crazy.”

Her father laid down his brush. He followed his daughter to Yalda’s room. Yalda was no where to be seen. But his wife was crashing her daughter’s canvases. She was splattering paint every where. The father stepped back into the hall, closed the door and said to Yeta, “Your mother has to work this out of her system.” But he knew this was not about working this out of her system. This was much more than that.

When she was finished, his wife left the room. She had paint splotched on her face, on her dress, even on her bare feet. Her hair was a mess. She did not speak to her husband. She did not speak to her daughter. She walked into her bedroom, put on a pair of shoes, gathered up a few things, including her purse. She left the house and got into her car and drove away.

When her sisters came home from the movies, Yeta told them what had happened. Their father was in the studio painting. The oldest, Ana, came to the studio and brought her father his favorite tea. There were tears in his eyes. He took the cup and drank it, then said, “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”

The other sisters came into the studio and gathered around their father. Then they cried. All of them cried. It was Ana who finally said, “Let’s go clean Yalda’s room.”

That night the man and his daughters discussed what they were to do. “We’re not going to the police and report her missing. We will just tell everyone that your mother went on a long trip and we don’t know when she will be back.”

A week later a policeman knocked on the door. “We understand your wife is missing.”

He invited the officer inside. “She is missing.”

The officer sat down with the man and his girls. They explained what happened. Not the part about Yalda’s room. But the disappointment she had felt about Yalda not becoming a dancer.

“She left of her own free will,” Ana said. There was a bit of anger in her voice. But mostly sadness. She missed her mother.

“I see,” the officer said. Then he perused the neighborhood. Two of the neighbors had seen her leave. She didn’t look like someone harmed or in harm’s way. She looked the way she always looked, except for the paint splotches. They definitely mentioned the paint splotches.

A detective came to see the family. He asked about the splotches.

The father told him what happened.

“Why didn’t you have her hospitalized?”

“How would you feel if your wife went crazy one day and attacked your daughter’s room?”

“I see what you mean,” the detective said.

“We were all in such shock. We figured she was doing what she needed to do.”

The detective had his answers. He left the family in peace. But the family didn’t feel any peace. The girls and their father worried about the missing woman. And they missed her. They missed her laugh. They missed her cutting up. They missed the Sunday water fights and picnics. They missed her voice as they went about their work.

The five daughters continued to dance. They formed a dance troupe called The Sisters and went on tour. For a few moments before each performance they stood in a circle in silence, thinking of their mother, then they dedicated the performance to her.

Yalda went on painting. In the early mornings, she slipped out of the house. She went to the meadows nearby and worked at her canvas. After a few years, she began to win prizes for her work. When asked, she shared that her paintings were for her mother. When she went and sat in the meadow, she thought of her mother as she moved her brush. That was why her landscapes reminded the viewer of a dancer.

After five years, Gabriel, her husband, finished a large canvas of his wife. It was his best work. Unlike his other paintings which were expensive, he gave this one away to a museum. In his mind, it reminded him that he had to let go of his wife. But it was hard.

Over the next few years, The Sisters travelled around the world. Yalda stayed at home close to her father. She got married and had a daughter. And each of the other sisters did as well. When the family gathered on occasions, they were a large family. They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.

Just before everyone left, things went quiet. Gabriel and his daughters stepped away from the large group. They walked in silence to the meadow where Yalda painted her canvases. There they each remembered the woman who had left. They remembered one special moment each had with her. Then they returned to the house.

As they left their father, each sister said him, “Soon.” Each had never given up on the belief that their mother would one day return to them.

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Turn the page

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”:

When I think of Rock  ‘n’ Roll, I think Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and Bob Seger. Man, those guys had rock ‘n’ roll in their souls as much as the Beatles and Elvis ever did.  Bob Seger isn’t Elvis but he’s close. And, man, can he sing. That gravelly voice carries so much feeling which makes me think he’s one of the top twenty rock singers of all time.

On top of that, he writes great lyrics. Giving us “Night Moves”, “Old Time Rock ‘n” Roll”, “Hollywood Nights” and “Against the Wind”.

Coming out of the Midwest, he has his roots in good American earth and good American music. Like another Midwesterner, John Mellencamp, he’s a working class musician who never forgets where the music comes from and he never forgets who the music’s for. I think one of the reasons I love his songs is the honesty. They seem to be saying, “Here’s my life, the good and the bad. Take it or leave it.”

Of all his songs, the one I find most moving is “Turn the Page”. Not too many songwriters give the audience a back stage view of what a touring musician’s life is like. How you are always on to your next gig and how much it cost your personal life and how towns and cities become just one long blur. It’s a hard life no matter what. You’re a troubadour, that’s all.

From the opening sax notes to the final lines of the song, it’s the story of every touring performer from Homer to Johnny Cash to the Beatles to Elton John to Jay-z, that endless line of musicians who have given their lives to the music. And the last lines of the song really hit hard.

“Later in the evening as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers ringin’ in your head
You smoke the day’s last cigarette, remembering what she said.”

And it’s wonderful to hear an audience join in with Bob to sing all the lyrics.

Near 500 words: Gypsy Woman

“It’ s springtime in France. The long grass rising from the fields. Van Gogh’s in the field painting. Splattering his canvas with color,” Nadia and her guitar sang.

She sang of the gypsies and she sang of the days when the world was no longer dead but alive with blossoms. France was her home but she left when she was seventeen to come to America and New York City and make it in the Big Time. Now she waitressed and sang her tunes three nights a week. It was a living as she worked the system to get a recording contract.

“Do you rap?” a producer asked.

“I don’t rap,” she answered. “And I am not about to start.”

“Better find another line of work,” he told her.

She didn’t. She wasn’t a quitter. So she kept at it.

“He looked like Charles Aznavour but he had a temper like tornado. It rose in the west and came early on a Saturday night. It was a tornado called jealousy,” she and her guitar sang.

At the end of her performance one Friday night, a man appeared out of the crowd of ten. “I’m Felix. I think I can take you far.”

She had heard that before. All they wanted to do is to get in her pants, then slink away into the night like the snakes they were. “Perhaps I should do a song about snakes,” she thought.

He handed her his card. It read A & R, Ruckus Records.

“When do we record?” she asked, suspicious-like.

“How ‘bout coming to the studio tomorrow at eight.”

“Maybe this one was the one,” hope spoke to her.

After he left, a woman in her early fifties approached her. “Watch out for him. He’s a bastard.”

The next morning, with her suitcase packed, she caught a bus south. For Nashville. She yodeled like the best of them and she was sure Nashville was the place she could sing her songs of France and yodel like the hills.

Late night meditation

It’s eleven p.m. The street is quiet.
Neighbors’ lights go out one by one
and soon the midnight hour
when only street lights shine.
In the kitchen, dishes in the sink,
an uncorked Cabernet
and a slice of wedding cake in the fridge.
Cat sprawls out on the couch.
On a chair, an open book,
a story half-unfinished,
with maps to the moon
and colored photographs.
Down the hall, the bed waits,
pillows propped two high
and clean sheets.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Danny Kaye Conducts an Orchestra, etc.

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is Danny Kaye:

A great performer will leave you breathless. This is how Danny Kaye left me when I saw him conduct an orchestra. And I might add, on the floor laughing. It must have been a Danny Kaye viewer who invented the term ROFL.

Danny Kaye, the group singer.

And who else could have played Hans Christian Andersen other than Danny Kaye.

Not only was Danny Kaye a great talent. He was generous as well. The money he made from conducting went to the musician’s retirement fund. In addition, he was the first Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF.

So it’s my great pleasure today to honor Danny Kaye as Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator.

Carl Reiner’s tribute