A Barbra Streisand concert unleashes a flood of memories

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by Helen Baldwin |

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As I tallied the sea of tiny numbers on my tax spreadsheets, I decided to search for some background music on my computer.

I love my computer — a gift from my generous family in 2020 — but it doesn’t have a CD drive. Almost all of the music I’d imported on my former computer was personal: my late mother‘s recitals and original compositions, our two-piano practices and programs, and two, two-piano programs I played in high school with two of Mom’s pupils.

Importing music from personal CDs to my new computer was so tedious that I quit trying until further notice. I plopped a CD into the old boombox near the computer, but it balked from years of dust and cobwebs. Granted, it was a legitimate complaint.

I frequently listen to what I successfully imported onto this computer. I love hearing Mom’s music, but the myriad memories make my heart ache, and I needed to focus on important numbers. Last Saturday, on a sunny morning, I found a Barbra Streisand concert online to ease the tax drudgery.

I grew up appreciating Barbra, thanks to Mom. When I was old enough to play two-piano music with her (Mom, not Barbra), favorites included Broadway musicals, movie themes, standards, and Barbra songs. Our music collection was impressively varied, but it was often Barbra selections we grabbed for impromptu playing sessions. We had such fun!

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The power of music

The live concert production “Barbra: The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic!” on Netflix was exactly that. The orchestra’s “People” overture welcomed the one-and-only Barbra, who promptly worked her magic with “The Way We Were.” The first word of that song: “memories.”

As if on cue, the blue sky grayed up with pending wintry clouds, and my eyes watered as I remembered playing this with Mom. “Evergreen” sparked the memory that for some unidentifiable reason, Mom and I never seemed to get that one completely right, sending us into uncontrollable guffaws after every attempt.

As I regrouped, here came “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” another favorite. And on and on. The tiny tax figures were abandoned as the memories and tears flowed.

A couple of unfamiliar concert selections provided a slight respite. Before I could regain complete composure, though, Jamie Foxx appeared on stage as Barbra’s duet partner for a goosebump-provoking rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

Another flashback, this time to sixth grade graduation at Westcliff Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas. I accompanied the chorus on piano for “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “Edelweiss,” both from “The Sound of Music.” I wore hose, a garter belt, and pumps for the first time. My shoes, white with a black patent bow, were a perfect complement to the simple white pique empire dress my beloved maternal grandmother made. I may have even worn tiny clip-on earrings. With my pixie haircut, I looked sharp!

Goodbye, easy life. Hello, junior high and initiation into the real world.

That sparked another “now you have it, now you don’t” memory.

Easy come, a crushing go

After my husband, Randy, and I recovered from the shock of a third pregnancy in the fall of 1996, we made the best of it. Since God apparently thought we were good enough to give parenthood another go, we rose to the task to the best of our collective ability.

Waddling into the ER on May 18, 1997, I announced that I was there to have a baby. That was probably fairly obvious, but when the receptionist heard that the due date wasn’t for two more weeks, she seemed to scoff. I wasn’t kidding, however — shortly after our admittance, sweet Jeffrey joined our family. We went home the next day, and Jeffrey’s siblings, Matthew, then 10, and Katie, then 7, were instantly smitten.

Our revised routine as a family of five commenced relatively uneventfully. I couldn’t believe our good fortune at having a baby so content with life that he barely cried. Jeffrey was easily satisfied with milk, a diaper change, or a soft lap and sweet talk. He never even squirmed. I’ll blame my utter lack of awareness on the wheels of life spinning in the background.

Life with a newborn and two older children was good, despite Randy’s job loss and his scrambling to start a new business. We were busy, happy, and appreciative of our perfect little family.

Two months after Jeffrey’s arrival, our smooth sailing slowed to a crawl when our sweet surprise was diagnosed with SMA. When the neurologist tacked on the prognosis of death well before kindergarten, it screeched to a halt at the edge of a cliff.

Miraculously, we didn’t fall off.

Lyrics that speak truth

“Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you
(from “Smile,” performed by Barbra Streisand)

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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