Playing with Her Legacy
My mother, who has been gone ten years this month, would have been happy that I’m back in Buffalo. We could have done more together – read more books, seen more films, attended more plays and music events. Our relationship was difficult for me sometimes, but Mom and I shared a love of reading and the arts that transcended my unspoken frustrations. She was happiest when she was immersed in a cultural experience, and I loved witnessing and sharing in her joy.
A decade ago, her bookshelves were crammed with hard covers and paperbacks she had recently purchased – testaments to her hope that she would beat the stage four cancer that was slowly ravaging her body. Mom was usually in the middle of at least four books (a feat I have never been able to master). She loved quirky, unusual authors and turned me on to Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Monk Kidd, John Irving, Louise Erdrich, David Sedaris, and others. I sometimes escape to the dusty quiet of a used bookstore when I need to turn off the chatter of the modern world. My favorite shop is Old Editions on Huron Street. On a recent rainy Saturday, I got lost there among the pages for hours.
I remember watching old movies with my mother, especially song and dance films starring Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, or Danny Kaye. She loved musicals, too: South Pacific, Oklahoma, Camelot. Years ago, we saw a wonderful production of Pump Boys and Dinettes at the Artpark at the Church in Lewiston. Her tastes were eclectic – everything from chamber music at the University at Buffalo to jazz fusion at The Tralf. She supported the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and I remember her excitement at learning that greats like Itzhak Perlman or James Galway were part of the BPO’s upcoming season. My mother was close-lipped on some subjects, like her emotions, but ask her about music and she became as animated as a schoolgirl.
Mom was passionate about live theatre and we went to see many plays together at the Irish Classical Theatre, the Lancaster Opera House, and the Kavinoky Theatre. We agreed that one of the best shows we ever experienced was Saint Joan at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. It is playing at the Festival again this year and part of me wants to go see it. A larger part of me, though, wants to preserve as sacrosanct the memory of us chatting about the play, in awe, as we walked to dinner at The Buttery afterward. It had been a perfect day; life does not afford one an overabundance of those.
As I look ahead to summer in Buffalo, I find myself checking the websites of the places Mom loved. This city is resplendent with culture, something I admit I missed dearly while living in the country. My first stop will be “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Shakespeare in Delaware Park. After that, the BPO at Niawanda Park and then perhaps Eric Paslay at Canalside. In between, I’ll wander to my local library or venture out to Old Editions to pick something to read that both Mom and I would have enjoyed.