By Ellie Levin, a Member of Get Your Wordsworth
My husband Jud and I began our anniversary watch a day or two before the first day of spring. Each year we looked for favorable weather patterns, dressed lightly even though we shivered in the still cold wind, and measured the length of the increasing amount of sunlight on the trees and gardens. On our special day, we went to a dance concert or to the theatre. For two years since his death I had mourned the whole week.
This year I was determined to celebrate what had been the best years of my life. I went to Juilliard a week and a day before to get a ticket for Les Noces, by Bronislava Nijinska , for March 23, the target date. I felt sad for a moment standing in the lobby holding the single ticket. Then I remembered a swimming pool we both enjoyed for several years on West End Avenue in back of Lincoln Center and decided to stroll over there. To my delight, the woman at the reception desk gave me a one week free pass. I swam that day and the next and the next in sunlight and warm water.
By Friday the weather was astonishing, reaching summer temperatures. I went to Fairway and bought extravagantly: smoked salmon, lots of hummus, strawberries and rhubarb. On the way there and back I stopped several times to admire the clusters of purple crocuses and white May flowers on the hillside and promised myself to paint a picture in their honor. Several volunteer gardeners were working that afternoon.
Saturday was much cooler but an exciting day. I hung my art work at Teachers College, Columbia University, in Macy Gallery, with other members of the community art class, and later that day I went to an exhibit of the dress designs, fabrics, and paintings of Sonia Delaunay at the Cooper Hewitt with a dear friend. Delaunay’s insistence that colors have rhythms was inspiring. This Russian Jewish artist had once designed for the Ballet Russe.
Sunday I went swimming again in water that was sparkling from the rays of the sun. The water temperature was eighty-six, just the temperature Jud preferred. I imagined him swimming like a great fish beneath me in the opposite direction as he so often did. At the time I was not so sure I liked it, but now it was fun to think about. I walked home from Lincoln Center through Morningside Park thrilled to see the bursting tree buds and dainty curtsying flowers of many hues: yellow gold, purple royal, pink, lavender, and white. A small witch-hazel tree bristling with golden spiked flowers was surrounded by white snow drops. I was deliciously tired when I got home.
Monday’s rain was acceptable. I spent part of the day at the Harriman Institute learning about Russia and its various monetary troubles from an eminent speaker. We went to Russia several times in recent years and enjoyed seeing a young French friend who works with a bank in Moscow, so even though the subject was a little over my head, being there felt right for my pre-anniversary watch.
Tuesday I bought tickets for myself and another friend for an opera in April, and later in the day, with a student, read e .e. cummings’ poem about spring. We discovered another poem about snow all upside down and broken and I promised to try to make some pattern of it by next Tuesday. The sun is shining, but snow is forecast for tomorrow. I must be brave. I have done so well so far.
Today is our wedding anniversary. It is snowing and hailing. I struggle to get to exercise class on time. I am late but I am glad I have gone out. I keep thinking as I answer mail and do other routine tasks during the rest of the day, “How could we have planned an outdoor wedding in Central Park twenty-five years ago?” I thank the gods that blessed us with sunshine on that Sunday morning.
The day goes by slowly. By six o’clock I feel that I must leave the apartment or I never will. Fortunately, our local library is open until 7:00 pm. I read a small book, really an essay called “What Now” by Ann Patchett. It fits my life perfectly. Arriving at the theatre a bit early, I am surprised and delighted to spot a friend from Morningside Gardens waiting for the theatre to open and exclaim to myself in Jud’s voice, “Russia is saved!” We will go home together in the snow. The show‘s first piece is magical, “Les Noces,” evoking the style of Russian peasant dancing at a wedding, circa 1923, to music by Igor Stravinsky and ends with “Grand Duo” by Mark Morris welded to music by Lou Harrison. In between is Eliot Feld’s “Skara Brae,” composed of Celtic dance and music. It is opening night and the audience is wildly enthusiastic, clapping and shouting, “Bravo, bravo!” Our home trip is wonderfully uneventful as my friend knows just how to get to the nearest subway entrance, so I do not have to stumble through the driving snow and sleet. “I made it, I did it,” I think, as I turn the lock on my apartment door, and, “Jud would have been proud of me and happy to see me home safe and sound as always when I went out without him.” So I add another happy event to my memory bank.
Elinor Levin is a retired teacher and mother of two sons. These days she enjoys swimming, walking, yoga, and Writing from Life Experience.