Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gracias a la vida

Nancy's birthday party was wonderful - a gathering of lifelong friends to make merry music, it made me glad to be alive. Friend Terry produced the photo below for the scrapbook on display - Nancy visiting Gillian, John and me in the kitchen of our communal house on Markham Street in early 1973. I was 22; Nancy was 28. John, an Englishman, made his own Guinness beer in a garbage can in the communal bathroom. There were cockroaches. There was marijuana. We went almost every Friday night to El Mocambo to dance. We were young. 
 Nancy on Sunday with her musician daughter Suzy who organized the whole she-bang. More than 40 years later she looks exactly the same.
What's extraordinary about Nancy's compositions are their range - from sharply satirical and political to hauntingly true about family life and failed love - "In love with the lead," "Bad Boy," the funny, moving song quoting her daughters' embarrassment about their mother - to Broadway showbizzy, as in the songs from her musical "Gilbert and Anne," to simply hilariously quirky, as in "Les Belles Fesses" or her song about the woman with a 40 pound cyst. Who else would read that in the paper and write a song about it??

Best of all, the singers were often the next generation, performers from Wexford Collegiate, where Nancy's daughters studied, so beautiful, so young - just a little younger, in fact, than Nancy and I were when we toured in 1972. Then a man from Argentina told us that when he and his compatriots were in Toronto trying to rally political support to fight the junta, Nancy wrote a song that became a union ballad sung across the country and in Argentina too. Didn't know that. And we all sang along with "Gracias a la Vida," the classic Chilean Violeta Para song that Nan translated and often sang.

I was at a table with friends I've had since the early 70's - and Gillian there too, friend since Halifax, 1958. It was a fantastic night.

Yesterday, my daughter came over to work. I need help organizing the chaos of my life, especially the basement where everything is piled, and she is an expert organizer. We spent two hours and I'm a new woman. We now have a date every Monday. Talk about win/win for me - I get time with my girl and an organized house too. At one point, I showed her a decade's worth of old daytimers and said, "I don't know why I keep these, but I do," and she said, "Mum, I hope it's okay if I say that if you don't get around to throwing them out, one day very, very far in the future, I will."

It's comforting to know that yes, without a moment's hesitation, she will.

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