But I just unlocked a little treasure from her and it inspired me to share.
Because Yizkor is coming soon and I will want to remember my mom this way.
When I was fourteen, my mom decided to go back to singing Jazz in nightclubs, something she hadn't done since before she had my sister and me. She'd missed it, and was inspired by my dad leaving his hotel job to go back to playing in piano bars, so she decided to give it a try. One of the things she did, after rounding up some players for a trio and working up some songs, was to make a demo recording in someone's home studio. It was 1978, and the recording was done on the cheap. But I was allowed to skip school that day and watch the proceedings unfold.
When it was over, Mom had a cassette tape with several songs on it.
Fast forward to today. A friend I used to play drums with (in her band) wanted to know if I had any copies of our first album, which was released on cassette only in 1995. I said I did. She asked me if I could transfer the sound files from cassette into MP3 files on a computer and send them to her.
I looked around, found this cool gadget that allows you to do exactly that, and told her yes.
But first I wanted to rescue my Mom's demo tape, which was almost twenty years older and more vulnerable to the vagaries of time.
As I listened to her sing, I remembered her all over again. It was bittersweet. I loved her deeply, and I also felt deeply sad for her when I learned all the details of her awful childhood. There is so much I would want to say but right now it's tough to find the right words.
One of Mom's favorite songs was "All By Myself" -- and as I listened to her cover tonight, I realized that, even in a roomful of people, my mother could still feel all by herself. Listening to the torchy quality of her voice come through the grainy quality of the cassette tape, I felt like some of her strength had landed inside me. I was grateful for the reminder that our parents come to inhabit us in amazing ways. She was a technically perfect singer -- and she smoked two packs a day for most of her life -- but she had buckets of soul, and an amazing ability to turn her personal love and pain into universal emotions that anyone could feel through music.
So I'm going to honor my mother by letting you in on the treasure, by leaving this right here.