Sunday, December 30, 2007

After one has listened to Darlene Edwards (not to mention Jonathan)...

one is well-advised to return to sanity and the normal world gradually to prevent damage to one's cerebral cortex. Therefore, since tomorrow is New Year's Eve and 2007 will soon be replaced by 2008, we have just the thing. We shall accomplish our return, our decompression, as it were, by way of our very own A Festival Of Auld Lang Syne Performances.

The first performance will be on the musical saw with accordion accompaniment (I said we must do this gradually), plus there is a bit of the human voice. Experiencing this particular performance is eerily reminiscent of listening to Darlene Edwards herself, but it will begin to accomplish our ends. When the voice enters (which I believe is female, but I may be wrong), we are actually able to forget Darlene for a time by concentrating instead on what seems to be a very poor imitation of the young Bob Dylan from a time when Bob's lyrics were still comprehensible. Here, then, from 2006, is the androgynous Nicki Jaine on both the saw and the vocal, accompanied by Roy Ashley on accordion, with Auld Lang Syne #1.

Next, class, we travel through both time and space to Detroit in the year 1987 to hear the young Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston sing a Motown version of our festival theme, Auld Lang Syne #2. Inexplicably, there is a brief appearance by comedian David Brenner at the end of the performance.

As we continue to mellow and chill and let the old year slip away, who better than saxophonist Kenny G to put us in the proper mood? Here is the third rung on our decompression ladder, Auld Lang Syne #3. You may skip this step only if you majored in jazz saxophone in college and consider Kenny G as having sold out for commercial success.

And now for our final performance of the Festival. After listening to dozens of possibilities, we decided against subjecting you to Barbra Streisand's turn-of-the-millenium Las Vegas concert rendition and settled instead upon what we believe is a fitting close to the Festival. Here are the Alexandria Harmonizers, the 2003 medal winners of the International Chorus Singing Contest at the SPEBSQSA Convention in Montreal, Canada, singing Auld Lang Syne #4!

The Festival has now come to an end. It has done its work and our decompression is complete. You may now return to your normal lives, where you are free to choose any kind of music that helps you get through your day.

-----------------------------------------

Note:
1. Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America

I'm thinking if you liked Anna Russell...

you're probably going to love Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, a husband-and-wife team who recorded five albums over the years at the urging of their mentors, the great Paul Weston and Jo Stafford. Jonathan (Paul) plays a mean piano and Darlene (Jo) has never been in better voice. Upon winning a grammy they were astounded to learn it was for comedy, not their musical artistry. Well, thanks once again to YouTube, here is a real end-of-the-year treat. I give you the incomparable, the often imitated but never duplicated, the unbelievable (have your earplugs at the ready) Jonathan and Darlene Edwards!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Anna Russell sings again!

Back in the day, one of my favorite comedic albums was "Anna Russell Sings." I was dumb enough to give my copy to a friend thirty years ago, and I have been sorry ever since. Miss Russell, whose act had to be heard to be believed, died at the age of 94 a couple of years ago. Today, with only three days remaining before the Year of Our Lord 2007 also fades into history, I discovered her on YouTube singing that old favorite, "Canto dolciamente pippo" from the opera "La Cantatrice Squealante" by the Italian composer, Michelangelo Occupinti. Then she launched into its polar opposite, "I Gave You My Heart And You Made Me Miserable."

Anna Russell, the Victor Borge of the operatic world, deserves to be heard and laughed at and adored by a new generation of music lovers. So settle back, close your eyes, and pretend you are in the concert hall. Ladies and gentlemen, here, once again, for your listening pleasure (remember to turn up your volume), is the one, the only, Anna Russell.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The celebration continues

We spent Christmas Eve at Elijah's and Noah's house after they returned from a candlelight church service. We dined on scrumptious stuff their mother had spread out, honey-glazed ham and turkey and even "beans and greens" (a Southern dish) along with Tiramasu cheesecake and the like. At eleven p.m. we drove the twelve miles home and fell into bed. On Christmas morning we returned for breakfast, which was just as amazing as the previous evening's repast. You haven't lived until you have eaten French toast that has been stuffed with a cream cheese and orange marmalade concoction and then covered with powdered sugar and Maple syrup. We oohed and ahhed at the new iPod, the new cell phone, the new laptop, the several new electronic games -- all in all, a very electronic Christmas. In early afternoon we returned to our own home and decorated our Christmas tree. Yes, you read that correctly.

On the day after Christmas, Sawyer and Sam and their parents left their home in Alabama in the afternoon and headed in our direction. About two-thirds of the way to our house we met them at a restaurant near where Matthew and Ansley live, and we were joined by them and their parents. The pre-planning committee had suggested O'Charley's, but somehow we ended up at Chili's instead. Here we had the traditional Christmas fajitas quesadillas and the cedar-planked tilapia with pico de gallo. I'm kidding about the "traditional," but that's what we had. Then we caravaned (caravanned?) with Sawyer and Sam and their parents the rest of the way to our house.

Two days after Christmas (that would be today), Elijah and Noah and Matthew and Ansley and their assorted parents are all joining the rest of us at our house, where we will finally get to have our "full family" exchange of Christmas gifts together. Oh, yes, and we'll eat even more goodies.

Such is the life of one set of happy grandparents. Christmas is certainly about more than food and family, but, hey, we're not complaining.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Il est né, le divine enfant!

Il est né, le divine enfant;
Jouez hautbois, résonnez musettes!
Il est né, le divine enfant;
Chantons tous son avènement.

or, as they say in English (and if they don't, they ought to):

He is born, the holy Child;
Play the oboes, sound the bagpipes!
He is born, the holy Child;
Let's all sing of His holy birth.

That's what Christmas is all about. Not yule logs and garlands of holly and lights in evergreen trees, which are actually ways ancient pagans in northern climes celebrated the winter solstice, beckoning the sun back from its southward journey. Christmas has nothing to do with snow and walking in a winter wonderland, either. The birth of the holy child probably didn't happen on December 25th. That date was chosen by early Christians to blend in with the Saturnalia, the celebration by the Romans of one of their gods, Saturn, and thereby escape detection. Detection by the Romans usually meant being thrown to hungry lions for the amusement of the masses or being soaked in oil and turned into human torches to light the Appian Way for the emperor. According to New Testament accounts, the shepherds were spending the night in the fields with their flocks, so the actual date of the birth was more likely in springtime, when the ewes were giving birth to lambs. Dashing through the snow in a one-horse, open sleigh may describe an old-fashioned winter in northern latitudes quite well, but the Holy Land is warm. It has palm trees. Think wise men riding on camels past oases in the desert. Not a snowflake or sleigh in sight.

And speaking of sleighs, Christmas is also not about gifts from Santa Claus, whose miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, plus Rudolph, may well cause the real St. Nicholas to spin in his grave. But gifts at least get closer to the heart of Christmas. Christmas is about the giving of a gift, one particular gift, the gift of a holy child to a lost and dying world from a God filled with love for each and every human being. God had such love for the world that He decided to do something to bridge the awful gap that had resulted from the first human disobedience (it's a long story). Here's what He did: He came Himself. He became Immanuel -- God with us -- to make restoration possible. Christmas, when the Word of God was made flesh, is about Jesus Christ, God's only-begotten Son, who became one of us to give His life a ransom for many and reconcile us to God. You can read all about it in the first couple of chapters of Matthew's gospel, Luke's gospel, and John's gospel in the New Testament.

Now that's a real reason to celebrate, maybe even by playing oboes and bagpipes!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve, trees, and the BBC

Today is Christmas Eve and we have a full day ahead of us. All the gifts have been purchased but about half of them still need to be wrapped. Jethro has an appointment to be groomed at 9:00 a.m. in Woodstock, fifteen miles away. I still have to put up the eight-foot tree and decorate it and set up the creche on the credenza in the foyer and set out the pre-lit trees on either side of the front door. Somewhere in there before the family arrives I also will be cleaning the house--vacuuming and dusting and scrubbing the kitchen floor and making the bathrooms presentable. There is a bit of a reprieve this year, though: our family get-together won't occur until Thursday, the 27th, partly because my policeman son-in-law in Alabama changed jobs this year and now his days off are Thursday and Friday.

In other years, the tree would have been up for a week or two already, but this year the time just got away from us, what with Ellie having to attend Joint Replacement Class and get lab work done and be cleared for her knee replacement surgery on January 7th. When I was a child, we never had a tree until Christmas morning and I was told that Santa brought it. Of course, it was only a three-ft. table-top tree, not the eight-foot monster I have to deal with today. Our church in Roswell is having a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6:00 p.m., but we probably won't go this year. This evening we will be driving back to Woodstock to eat Christmas Eve dinner with my son and daughter-in-law, the boys, and their other grandmother who has driven up from Florida. We've also been invited back for Christmas morning breakfast. Our oldest son is participating in our other daughter-in-law's family's activities and we'll see them on Thursday along with all the other kids and grandkids. We don't care when we see everybody; we're just glad we get to see them.

I hope Jethro's appointment doesn't interfere with what has become one of my favorite Chritmas Eve traditions, one I heartily recommend. For some years now, I have turned the radio on to the Public Broadcasting station at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 24th and listened to the live, worldwide broadcast by the BBC of the Christmas Eve service, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, from the chapel of Kings College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, featuring their world-famous boys choir. The program always begins with a single boy soprano singing "Once In Royal David's City" a capella to start the processional and ends ninety minutes later with a resoundingly satisfying rendition of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" with full-organ accompaniment. In between are some of the most beautiful choral music pieces and virtuoso organ playing you will ever hear, interspersed with readings of Scripture having to do with the birth of Christ. Each speaker ends his segment with the words, "Thanks be to God." It is always magnificent and it never fails to inspire. A couple of years it was also televised.

If I miss the broadcast because of Jethro's grooming appointment, I'll still be there in spirit. [Update: I missed the first half-hour, but I was rewarded for my lateness with "Ding, Dong, Merrily On High, Hosanna In Excelsis."]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How's that again?

Mentioning Hanukkah in yesterday's post brought up a sweet memory from an earlier time. "Shuma lakka," I once heard our niece say to our nephew, and he replied, "Lackum shula." Then they both laughed, thinking fondly of their grandfather, who died in 1983. It took me back. Their grandfather, who in his native land of Albania was called Dhimitri Kuçi, came to America in 1917 and lived here for over sixty-five years. But he sounded as though he had just arrived, just got off the boat. For the record, I loved hearing my wife's parents speak English; their accents were charming.

But our niece and nephew didn't understand what their grandfather had so often said to his grandchildren. Even though his accent was thick, he was a cosmopolitan guy, having owned a restaurant in Philadelphia and another business in North Carolina. He had been around the block a few times, and he didn't know a stranger. He made friends with all kinds of people. And what he had said, I tried to explain to them, were the greeting and response he had heard Jewish people say to one another in Hebrew: Shalom aleichim (peace be unto you) and Aleichim shalom (unto you be peace). Pop was not speaking gibberish. Nor was he advocating sending footwear to southeast Asia ("Shoe Malacca?") or explaining why the Miami Dolphins football team had such a dismal season ("Lackum Shula!").

But Rhonda and James weren't buying my explanation. They had heard what they had heard, and they were sticking with it. So to our niece and nephew, if you're out there in cyberspace reading this, here's a shout-out to you for old times' sake: Shuma Lakka! Shoe Malacca! (Sis! Boom! Bah!) Lackum Shula! Lackum Shula! (Rah! Rah! Rah!)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shame on the editors of Time magazine

or at least shame on the editors of this year's special end-of-year publication called "2007: The Year In Review." The cover stared out at me from the rack next to the supermarket cash register a couple of days ago. "The events that counted," it said. "The things you'll remember." A third subheading not only stopped me in my tracks, it made my blood boil: "The people that mattered."

The idea that some people matter and others don't is odious. And its logical corollaries, that there are far more people who don't matter (the supposed nobodies buying the magazine, for example) than who do (the supposed somebodies whose pictures are in the magazine), and that it is necessary to have done something considered newsworthy enough to get one's picture in Time to "matter" are not only ridiculous, they are pathetic.

Let me tell you Time editors something. You are wrong. The nurses, doctors, schoolteachers, policemen, members of the armed forces, mommies, daddies, cafeteria workers, janitors, airline pilots, truck drivers, factory workers,--the list is endless--who will never have their faces published in your magazine matter. Every bit as much as you and your show-biz celebrity and politico friends and all the rest of the totally clueless* put together. Come to think of it, maybe more.

And just so you know, I didn't buy your magazine.

[*Note. The term "totally clueless" also applies to newspeople and talk-show hosts on television who are still saying, "Happy Hanukkah!" along with their "Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa!" sign-offs on December 21 even though Hanukkah, which began this year on December 4, ended on December 11. (They do get points, I guess, for vague feelings of good will toward men.)]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eat, drink, and be merry! (for tomorrow we...never mind)

Last evening our neighbors Peggy and Rube (that's his real name, not short for Reuben or anything else) drove around the corner and rang our doorbell. Then the four of us set out in their white Mercury Marquis for a local "meat and three" restaurant to participate in what the sign just inside our subdivision's entrance said was Senior Night Out. For you non-Southerners, a "meat and three" is sort of like your neighborhood bar and grill without the bar, or a Greek deli without the Greeks (I'm thinking of a great Greek restaurant in Queens, New York, at this very moment), or homestyle cooking without the home, or Mom and Pop cooking without...well, you get the picture. It really defies description unless you are Southern, and then no description is necessary. The chief attraction for our group was probably portion size (large), sodium content (low), and price range (very reasonable, with a ten per cent discount for seniors). Let's just say that if haute cuisine is what you are seeking, you probably won't find it at a "meat and three." For you non-Southerners again, three is the number of vegetables you get to select from a long list to go with your meat.

Twenty people showed up, which was a pretty good turnout, I thought. Sixteen of us were seated at a long table in a room reserved for us, and the other four were at an "overflow" table in the corner. Our subdivision, which is actually two sister subdivisions built by the same developer, has around 400 houses. Most of them are owned by young couples with growing families. In our context, "Senior" means basically that you are no longer young and your family is no longer growing through any efforts of your own. Our baby will be forty next month and Peggy said theirs was fifty-one, so the four of us qualified. We sat next to folks we hadn't met previously, and proceeded to get to know them better. Twenty out of 400 may not sound like a good turnout to you, but twenty out of whatever portion of that number are seniors (and I'm not sure what that figure is) seemed very respectable.

The seating in the restaurant may not have been upper class, but the seating in Rube's car definitely was. Let me explain. Ellie sat in the front seat with Rube, and I sat in the back seat with Peggy. We fell into this seating arrangement more or less naturally; Peggy was aware that knee problems prevent Ellie from climbing easily into the back seat of a car and graciously took the back seat herself. According to Vance Packard, who wrote a book called The Status Seekers back in 1959, this is how upper class couples travel, except when a husband and wife take separate vehicles altogether. When middle class couples travel together, according to Packard, one married couple sits in the front and the other married couple sits in the back. And in travel among the lower classes, the two husbands sit together in the front and the two wives sit in the back. Don't get mad at me; I'm just quoting Vance Packard. He wrote back in the days when people also looked to Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt for guidance in matters of etiquette. Those days are long gone.

The Status Seekers also includes a chapter entitled "The Long Road From Pentecostal To Episcopalian," but that is a subject for another day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alert the media: The "Bah, humbug" phase has ended.

Little signs that I'm finally getting into the Christmas spirit:

-- Gift-buying for the grandchildren is finished, as well as for the male adults in the family. Gift-buying for the female adults has not yet occurred, however. The good news: There are still twelve shopping days until Christmas. The bad news: All those gifts have to be wrapped.

-- Putting up a Christmas tree is beginning to seem more like a sweet inevitability and less like a repugnant chore.

-- Sitting down and signing Christmas cards and addressing all those envelopes and sticking on all those stamps sounds almost enjoyable.

-- Scot McKnight posted all eight verses of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" on his blog and I didn't have one cynical thought.

-- I've hummed through "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne And Thy Kingly Crown" several times.

As each speaker says at the end of each lesson in the Nine Lessons and Carols, "Thanks be to God." Now if we could just get the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio station to stop playing that barking dogs version of "Jingle Bells"....

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Travel is so broadening.

Today let us ponder things Mexican and things Japanese. Or not. Let me explain.

My oldest son had to fly to Louisiana this weekend to play his saxophone (I'm not kidding), and since my daughter-in-law's schedule included attending a luncheon on Saturday at her church for all the ladies involved in weekly Bible studies, she called us on Friday and asked if we could come over and stay with Matthew and Ansley for part of the day Saturday. Matthew called us Saturday morning and asked that we bring along our set of Mexican Train Dominoes. It turned out that except for the hour when the four of us went out to Chik-Fil-A for lunch, we played Mexican Train dominoes pretty much the entire time their mother was gone. I have no idea why this particular form of the game of dominoes is called Mexican Train, but I am willing to entertain all theories. One thing I know: it isn't the method by which most of our friends from south of the border arrive in our fair country.

Today was Noah's tenth birthday, and he had asked that the party be held at a Japanese restaurant. So eight little boys and six adults oohed and ahhed at the antics of the chef just as so many before us have done. When I asked the hostess what the name of the restaurant, Hanami, meant, she struggled to find the words in English and finally said, "when the seasons change and the flowers fall." I thought she was talking about autumn, even though she had definitely said flowers, not leaves. When I got back home, I signed onto Ye Olde Trusty Computer and asked ask.com for more information. Turns out hanami means "viewing the cherry blossoms" and is either a revered cultural event or a drunken orgy, depending on whom you ask. The nearest thing to it I can think of here in the good old U. S. of A. would have to be a combination of (a) "going to see the autumn leaves" if it happened in the spring [Note. Here in Atlanta, we do have a spring equivalent we call "looking at dogwoods and azaleas"] and (b) Mardi Gras, which is also either a revered cultural event (the day before Lent begins) or a drunken orgy, depending on whom you ask.

The title of the post says it all. Travel is so broadening, even when it's only to Acworth and Canton.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Nicholas

and today, December 6, happens to be the day when people in many places around the world honor him. He looked nothing like the mental image you probably have of his direct descendant, Santa Claus. We have a poem called "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (written in 1823 by either Clement Clark Moore or someone else) and twentieth-century artist Haddon Sundblom's depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company's Christmas advertising in 1931 to thank for that. (I would include Sundblom's picture of your mental image here, Virginia, except that the aforementioned Coca-Cola Company owns the copyright.)

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, the real St. Nicholas was born around 270 A.D. and died on this date in the year 343 in what is now the country of Turkey. He is the patron saint of sailors, fishermen, merchants, archers, children, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, thieves, and students in Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of several cities, among which are Barranquilla in Colombia, Bari in Italy, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Beit Jala in the West Bank of Palestine. In 1809, the New York Historical Society convened and named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York, so Saint Nicholas could also be considered the patron saint of New York.

As I said a couple of posts back in an entirely different context, start spreadin' the news.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

First night of Hanukkah, er, Chanukah, er, the Festival of Lights

At sundown tonight, the eight-day Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah begins. Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or however you choose to spell it) marks the
re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV (around 165 B.C.). It commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil." According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. Each evening during Hanukkah, another candle is lit on the menorah until, on the final day, the entire menorah is lit.

The dreidel, a four-sided top, is used for a game played during Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), and ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for the Hebrew phrase
"נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham) which means "a great miracle happened there." [Note. Most of the information in the preceding two paragraphs was taken from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.]

No matter what anyone might have told you, Hanukkah is not "the Jewish Christmas."

In the interest of full disclosure, my mother was Jewish (non-practicing) and my father was Christian (lapsed Methodist). I was raised Christian and have never attended a synagogue, but for years I struggled with my own identity. I wondered whether I was Christian or Jewish or half-Jewish, whatever that meant, and whether there could even be such a thing as "half-Jewish." In 1962, Mrs. Lydia Buksbazen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose husband Victor headed the Friends of Israel missionary organization, told me, "Hitler would have considered you Jewish." So basically, if my great-grandfather Max Silberman had not left Germany and come to America in the 1860's, we might not be having this conversation.

"Start spreadin' the news..."

We were watching Good Morning, America on ABC-TV this morning, something we don't usually do, and suddenly there was Liza (with a "z") Minnelli (with two "n's" and two "l's") singing her signature song, "New York, New York," accompanied by a group of musicians with a Big Band sound, right there in Diane Sawyer's studio. It was, in my humble opinion, awful (Liza's rendition of the song, not Diane Sawyer's studio).

"...I'm leaving today..." Would that it were so. Liza is 61 now, and her voice is just not what it used to be. (But then, whose is?) Ellie said, "Ohhhhhhh, she's trying to be like Tony Bennett." To which I replied, "No, she wants to be adored the way her mother was." (Is anyone unaware that her mother was, as Wikipedia refers to her, "the legendary actress and singer Judy Garland"?) (Wow, three punctuation marks in a row!). The chance of being loved more than some people love Judy Garland is similar to the chance of being hated more than some people hate Adolf Hitler (or Hillary Clinton or the Ayatollah Khomeini or Saddam Hussein or O. J. Simpson or George W. Bush): slim and none. (Note to self: Try to stop using so many parentheses.)

Judy Garland was only 46 or 47 when she died. Liza's voice at 61, as I said, is just not what it used to be. The warble has changed to a wobble; her vibrato was wide enough to drive a truck through. The band took the intro at a faster pace than I have ever heard the song performed before, probably to accommodate Liza's lack of breath control nowadays. It reminded me of hearing a 33-1/3 rpm recording played at 45 rpm (something we used to do in the fifties to amuse ourselves, for all you iTunes and Blackberry people). It just didn't sound right. To be fair, though, everyone applauded and shouted and whistled and stomped when she was finished. (Much in the way people probably responded when the Queen Mary ocean liner docked in Long Beach.) (I really have to stop using parentheses.)

I know I'm sounding uncharitable. I have to work on that. It's a failing of mine. Mama used to say, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." Alice Roosevelt Longworth, on the other hand, once embroidered a pillow with the saying, "If you can't say something nice about someone, come sit by me." Maybe I should pray daily, "Lord, make me more like Mama, and less like Alice Roosevelt Longworth." (I wonder if Liza Minnelli ever prays, "Lord, make me more like Mama"?...oops, there are those pesky parentheses again.)

Speaking of the Lord and praying, the prayer we call His includes these words: "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Even musically. For musicians, maybe especially musically. And Matthew wrote in his Gospel, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged." Whoa! And Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you."

Now there's some news worth spreading.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Nutcracker Suites, Basketball Games

Last night we drove over to Marietta again, this time to see the Georgia Ballet's 2007 production of Mr. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite at the Cobb Civic Center. The Georgia Ballet is in its 48th year and the Nutcracker Suite is in its 116th, having premiered in 1892. Two of our grandchildren, Matthew and Ansley, participated (last night, not in 1892). Ansley was a Victorian party girl in Act I and Matthew had the role of Fritz (the naughty brother who broke Clara's toy Nutcracker). He was also one of the soldiers in the "Battle With The Mice King" scene in Act I and returned to dance with Clara in the "Mother Ginger" scene during Act II. They were both absolutely fabulous. I believe this is Ansley's second year and Matthew's fifth year to participate in this holiday favorite. There are five more performances. Their mother, by the way, teaches at the Georgia Ballet School and danced many roles in Nutcracker herself when she was a student of Georgia Ballet's founder, the late Iris Hensley. Ms. Hensley's choreography is still being used, and it must have been a déjà vu evening for our daughter-in-law's parents, who sat several rows in front of us.

Today we will be attending not one but two basketball games because Cherokee County Youth Basketball season has officially begun. Our grandson Elijah is on a sixth-grade boys team and his brother Noah is on a fourth-grade boys team. This season is going to be difficult logistically for us because the games are played at elementary schools all over the county. Today, for example, Elijah's game starts at 11:00 a.m. in Ball Ground and Noah's game starts at 12 noon in Waleska. These towns are fifteen miles apart. So we will be "tag-teaming" with the boys' parents; all of us are going to Ball Ground to watch Elijah's game, but one car will be leaving early to get Noah to Waleska on time. After Elijah's game ends, the rest of us will travel lickety-split to Waleska to watch what's left of Noah's game. [Update. We got there two minutes before the first half ended.] Elijah and Noah will also be absolutely fabulous. I know because I've seen them play basketball before. This sort of Saturday is scheduled to last until mid-February.

We do have a reprieve of sorts in January: Ellie will be having knee replacement surgery. It is therefore with utmost sincerity that we solicit your prayers for our sanity between now and Presidents Day.