The weather is beautiful. Crisp and clear. A good day for remembering. As I posted a September 11 memorial on our library blog, band rehearsal was just beginning. The melody of  Dona Nobis Pacem, Latin for “grant us peace,” seeped through the block walls. And I thought, “Yes, Lord, please, grant us peace. In our world. In our cities. In Chicago.”

The text of an anthem learned long ago came flooding back. Set by J. Paul Williams and Anna Laura Page, it is a paraphrase of Isaiah 11:6-9: Continue reading “Remembering”

Are you Santa?

Last Saturday, as I wandered through J.C. Penney, I spied . . . Santa Claus. Well, he looked like a human-sized version of the old elf. He had white hair, a lovely white beard, and a round belly. After all, no one has ever heard of a skinny Santa.

I was not the only person who spotted the gentleman. A little girl, about 6 years old, and her mother approached him.

“My daughter said that the Santa in the mall is cheesy. And his beard is fake. She wants to know if you are the real Santa.”

The man smiled down at the girl. “Yes, I am,” he answered, “but I have a lot of helpers. Have you been good this year?”

The girl solemnly nodded her head.

“That’s good. You have a merry Christmas.”

I am sure he smiled again. Maybe he winked and nodded. And away he went, strolling through the store, St. Nick in blue jeans and a navy jacket. The girl and her mother melted into the crowd of shoppers.

And I stood in the sweater section, grinning and thinking, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!*”

[*Francis P. Church, New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897.]

The Letter

“Dear Nikolas,
I want to tell you about your grandfather. . . .”

I began writing at Hospice House. The letter is addressed to my sister’s three-year-old son. My sister insists that the boy will remember his grandfather. And maybe, by the grace of God, he will. But memories are limited by knowledge, and a young child knows very little. And so I write. Continue reading “The Letter”


A death is followed by the year of firsts. The first Easter, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first birthday, etc., each sadly marked by the loved one’s absence.

This week, I had the honor of accompanying a cracker-jack trumpet player in a concerto competition. We performed the 1st movement of the Hummel concerto, which lasts approximately 9 minutes. Written in 1803 for trumpet virtuoso Anton Weidinger, it is a tour de force.  I was honored to be asked and determined to learn the score in the short week allotted for the task. (Soloists, procure your accompanists early!) I was also thrilled to find that my right hand had recovered enough to handle the task.  I fell at the gym a few months ago and dislocated the knuckle in my right fifth finger. Continue reading “Firsts”


My husband poured a bowl of cereal for breakfast. He shook the box and poured a little more. Finally, he pulled the bag out of the box and inspected the underside.

“I don’t think there are any raisins in this raisin bran.”

I sang my reply, “Times is hard, times is hard.”

You may, or may not, recognize the line from “Sweeney Todd,” Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical tragedy about an avenging, murderous barber. I have spent the last three months helping my high school students prepare. Interesting how material works its way into our subconscious. Constant contact does that. Continue reading “Lessons”

The Old New-Books Blues

Melancholy. That’s the word I would use to describe yesterday’s mood. No, it was not the weather, the dense clouds, the snow. Well, maybe that explains part of the story, but not all of it. It’s the books.

Every library has a “new books” section, a special, prominent shelf where the new books spend their first weeks at the library. Books arrive shiny and new, with spotless covers and pristine spines. They are cataloged and processed, covered and stamped. They are displayed on the “New Books” case in an attractive manner. And then they wait.

If only they could talk, they might yell or plead or whisper, “Pick me. Pick me!” Continue reading “The Old New-Books Blues”

Soup’s On!

To my chagrin, the days are getting colder. Winter is here, and that means soup weather. So last night, I pulled out my grandmother’s recipe for cheddar-potato soup. It’s delicious and fairly easy to make.

The recipe begins, of course, with potatoes, which I distinctly remember selecting, placing in a produce bag, and dropping into a shopping cart. After that, the memory gets a little fuzzy. Alas, there were no potatoes in the house. So off to the grocery story I stormed for four lousy potatoes.

Back to the kitchen. Four medium potatoes, peeled and cubed; one medium onion, diced; and 1 cup sliced carrots are simmered in 3 cups of chicken broth until tender. Stirring the pot of vegetables brought back memories of my first attempt at this recipe. What a mess it was. Continue reading “Soup’s On!”