It has been a few weeks since we’ve sat back on this comfortable old sofa and shared a glass of wine. Seems like it’s hard to carve out a few peaceful moments in the mad dash of the holiday season. Given that it is the holiday season, perhaps it’s fitting that instead of wine we lift a glass of wassail and wish each other good health in the coming year. Do any of you make wassail? The only time I’ve ever sampled it was during the Christmas festivities in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was mighty fine!
The last two weeks have been busy for me but also fun. December is rushing by and we are now a week shy of Christmas Eve. Hard to believe.
Part of the rush has been due to my theatre commitments!
In late summer, I convinced my sister that it would be fun to subscribe to the theatre season in Baltimore. I was glad when she agreed. Over the years it has become increasingly important to me to maintain a close relationship with my only sister, and I enjoy finding things we can do together.
So every month or so, we end up in our ‘left orchestra’ seats at the Hippodrome Theatre. The Hippodrome, considered the Grand Lady of theatre in Baltimore, opened her doors for the first time in November 1914. Since then, she’s seen a lot of acts come and go. Among them was a young, blue-eyed singer making his first appearance with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in June 1939. Word is that the young man had a way with a song… wonder whatever became of him?
The theatre featured many live acts until 1959; after that it became a movie house. In 1990, it closed its doors. Like the area surrounding it, the theatre had fallen on hard times.
In 2004, fully renovated, the Grand Lady was featuring live entertainment once again. Baltimore welcomed her back with open arms. Like a great lady, she has retained her charm. The inside of the theatre is stunning.
The most recent show my sister and I attended was two weeks ago. Newsies, a production that boasts more energy than charm, was our second show of the season. None of the songs are particularly memorable and the jokes are just so-so. The history (based the newsboys’ 1899 strike against newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer) is romanticized. The show had won a Tony for its choreography and it’s easy to understand why. Some of the dancing numbers are outstanding and quite athletic. I enjoyed the show, but it’s one that is forgettable once you leave the theatre.
This past Sunday, my sister and I teamed up again to take our mother out in celebration of her 80th birthday. This time we went to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for the holiday show, Jolly Pops. It was delightful. How could it miss? It featured the Baltimore Choral Society as well as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. There’s something about hearing a full orchestra! The bright sounds of the horns, the sweet melodies of the strings, and the strong notes sounded by the percussive instruments are a treat for the ears. Put that together with a large choir and you have something pretty special. The chorus line of dancing Santas contributed to the holiday spirit – as did the glass of wine at intermission.
My mother enjoyed going out to the show, and then to dinner with her two girls. We let her choose the restaurant and she opted for her favorite, Pappas Restaurant & Sports Bar in Parkville, Maryland. For her dinner, she ordered what all Baltimoreans order: the crab cake dinner. YUM. You want crab cakes? You come to Baltimore. Only Baltimore knows how to make a crab cake. The secret? McCormick’s OLD BAY SEASONING®. Baltimoreans love the stuff – and with good reason.
We had a lovely time, but there was an underlying bitter sweetness. Crossing a crowded, traffic-laden street to get to the theatre, I reached for my mother’s thin hand and guided her through cars and knots of pedestrians, pointing out high curbs or cracks in the road. Once she arrived safely across the street, she looked at me and smiled. “I remember when I used to take your hand and lead you across the street,” she said.
That brought a lump to my throat. My mother has reached the season in her life where she accepts assistance rather than provides it. It’s a sobering reminder of how quickly time passes, and how our days are numbered and precious.
All the more reason to celebrate them, I think.
Well, friends, I do believe I’ve taken enough of your time for this Wednesday. If you’ve any holiday thoughts or memories you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section. Also, if you make wassail, do let me know. Fair warning, however: if you make it, I’ll be coming to your house to lift a cup with you.
I’d like to end this week’s Wednesday Whine by wishing all of my Jewish friends a most Happy Chanukah. God bless.