Monday, September 8

keeping moving

We had a very busy weekend this weekend. After an awards ceremony on Friday night for the theater festival we participated in this summer (we won best director), we ran to Philadelphia on Saturday morning to see family.

As previously mentioned, Christopher's sister had a baby at the end of June. Little Alden is now 2 months old, and he's so much bigger (and more exciting) than when we saw him a month ago. We also had a good time with Alden's big brother Isaac, who is now four, and he asked me if I'd succeeded in getting dressed. (clearly, getting dressed is what he's learning these days.)

Sunday would have been our friend Anne's 65th birthday. Last year Christopher and I drove down from NY with Anne's best friend, and celebrated her birthday with her friends at my parents' house. This year sadly it was the day of her memorial service instead. My parents hosted a brunch for her family and friends from out of town, and after a short break Christopher and I walked over to the Philadelphia Museum to catch a bus downtown for the service.

I'd never been to a memorial of this magnitude. Anne was the director of the museum for about 25 years, and she knew and touched a lot of very interesting people. The memorial was at the Academy of Music (which I hadn't been in since going to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts with my grandmother in high school). They estimated 2,000 guests, most of the Philadelphia art world as well as her family, her husband's family and various important art people from around the world.
The director of the British Museum spoke, as did the director of the Getty, and director emeritus of MoMA and Matisse's granddaughter. My parents and I didn't see them, but the paper reported that Christo and Jeanne-Claude were there, along with Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Gluckman.

Afterwards, we took a bus back to the Museum for a reception.
We mostly hung out with my parents, drinking wine and eating cheese and grapes in the grand hall before we discovered that there were tables on the terrace in front of the museum.It was dark and hard to photograph, so you'll have to trust me that there's no other view of Philadelphia quite like the one from the top of the Museum steps, and it was a real treat to be able to sit at a cafe table there, drinking wine and chatting with people from all parts of my parents' lives.

It was such an odd way to wish farewell to someone we knew. She had this very important public life, one which we didn't have a great part of, but it's how most people knew her. At the same time, the woman I knew, who was very gracious and generous and warm was also very private. I had very few personal conversations with her, which I really regret now. I'm not sure how that could have been different, but I now wish I could have asked her how she maneuvered the ropes the way she did, and how she learned to be so tactful. I regret not knowing more about how she perceived her position in the art world.

ETA: I forgot to mention that there was this marvelous silence before the memorial started. Most of the guests were sitting down and ready well before 5, and when the chimes went off in the lobby to make everyone sit at 4:55, everyone got silent. You'd think that within a minute or so they'd all realize that it was just the chimes, but the audience stayed very still until the service started at around 5:07. The silence was wonderful, and I was just astounded at how 2,000 people could suddenly just decide to be quiet. Perhaps this can only happen in a Quaker city.

4 comments:

knithound brooklyn said...

I didn't know you were from Philadelphia. I spent time there as a teenager. Graduated from Harriton on the Main Line. You?

Terra said...

That sounds like an amazing experience. Sad circumstances, but a wonderful celebration of her llife.

Anonymous said...

Your writing here brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you -
Emily Brown

A Walsh said...

bittersweet.