The traditional punch line is “Practice,” but in our family, it’s “Cousin Susan.”
Outraged that her children’s school in California had no orchestra program when she moved west twelve years ago, Susan founded the South Pasadena Strings Program, an award-winning, nationally-acclaimed music program for 5 – 12 year-olds. The youngest orchestra ever to perform at Carnegie Hall in May of 2009, Susan invited us to a recent return engagement.
Although we don’t see my husband’s first cousin very often, we’ve always had a special connection to her and her family. When we do sneak in mini-reunions over lunches that are over too soon, Brooks is often unavailable which is a shame because he would love hearing her reminisce with my husband about the songs they wrote together when they were seven (of course, they actually sing them right there in the restaurant!).
So we ignored the fact that this performance was on a school night and seized the opportunity to introduce Brooks to this legendary concert hall, and more importantly, to reintroduce him to the cousins and aunts who knew him only as a toddler.
I don’t know that I could choose a favorite moment about that night: seeing Brooks as enchanted with classical music as with Jay-Z or Taylor Swift; seeing Susan up there on the conductor’s podium completely in her element creating music with her accomplished students; watching 10-year-old Jenna (Susan’s daughter and principal cellist) coming over afterwards to give Brooks a big hug, not having seen him since they played together once lifetimes ago; reconnecting with Susan’s older daughter, Ariana, a freshman Julliard student who we intend to see perform very soon; seeing Aunt Lee’s face light up when she laid eyes on the boy she never fails to send a birthday card.
Given that we are geographically challenged with regards to extended family, we are so grateful for special occasions like these so that Brooks gets the chance to connect the dots. Especially since I can so distinctly recall a time shortly after he was diagnosed when relationships like these were fraught with uncertainty.
And let me take one last opportunity to brag about my extraordinary “cuz:”