Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Harmony of the Chord that Follows

The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise
Giovanni di Paolo, 1445
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This came to me last week. Through all the poetry read and written, I’ve harbored the idea that it’s kind of immature to replay the first time I fell in love. After all, it was 43 years ago.

The revelation arrived as I was walking toward the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a bright morning, blue sky.

It was 1974 again and we were climbing the museum steps, two 16-year olds who had taken the train to Grand Central Terminal and walked 40 blocks up Fifth Avenue. Why the museum? Definitely my idea; probably because the Met was one of the places in the city where I felt truly comfortable without my parents around.

About a year earlier, my father had announced that my brother and I were getting soft growing up in the suburbs, and took us to Greenwich Village for the day. That would have been a cooler place to go but I did not remember how to navigate around Washington Square.

So now my soon-to-be boyfriend and I were buying tickets and climbing more steps to the second floor galleries because that was the way I knew. The Met had not yet built the additions that made it sprawl.

Walking and climbing; finally alone together.

In music, anticipation is defined as the sounding of a few notes to create dissonance before the harmony of the chord that follows.

In the case of my high school experience, there had been more than a year of missed cues and letdowns.

So, while The Date felt like destiny, it also felt fragile. In those days it was the nature of teenaged girls – helped along by large doses of Joni Mitchell – to believe that love won’t last.

And it did not, although I kept the memory.

But last week I let myself fully evoke that time, as far as it was possible to reach, and realized that the floaty swirliness I always feel in early April descends from that particular April.

It’s the world barely green and the boulders in Central Park still cold from the winter as you sit on them, talking.

It’s April 1974 and April 2017.

The Garden of the Tuileries on a Winter Afternoon
Camille Pissarro, 1899
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)


  1. SO, you have just catapulted me back to the Museum of Natural History.
    when I was 8 or 9 my folks signed me up for Saturday science (genetics and microbiology) courses for kids because that was my passion. At home I propagated fruit-flies (that is until my mom found hundreds downstairs swarming in the kitchen) and euglena and paramecium from the CP pond water with my brand new microscope! Thanks for the memories Claudia

  2. Those first trips to New York without parents, but with friends; and then later, alone; I can still summon up that "floaty swirliness" in my stomach marking that anticipation felt on the train -- sometimes the Metro-North; sometimes the #2 from 241st street -- of coming into the city. It has a specificity of time and place unique in my life. (And I lived in the city later -- but that was different, because I was 16, and it was the 70s in NY.)

  3. I identify with so much of this. Thanks for prompting me to remember what it felt like to be a teenager in charge of a trip to the city.


The Little Time Traveler

  Last fall, my adorable grandson, halfway between two and three years, was finally tall enough to look at the family pictures arranged on a...