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The songs of Summer

“My summer home
Is the fairest of all,
With a morning glory roof
And sunflower walls.”
By Lovejoy

Hubby has finally begun growing his sunflowers. Usually he has about 30 or more growing in the yard. This year, with the crazy weather, he has only four but those are hardy and growing well. Other years his sunflowers have grown to seven feet or more, well over his head. We have photos so he can look back on them. Yesterday, while he was puttering around the cellar, he came across a box filled with seeds from previous summers. He always made sure he bought the giant sunflower seeds. He is going to plant a good portion of these seeds next summer.

On Wednesday evening, Aug. 10, Hubby, daughter Sue, and I drove to the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham for a very special evening. Daughter-in-law Alex was going to be the featured performer that evening, along with two open-mike segments, one before her performance and one after. We found the center very easily because Alex had sent us a link to the directions. We were quite early but went inside to get good seats for the performance.

Alex was already there with son Paul. I asked Alex to write down the list of songs that she was going to perform but she said that was a secret. She would give them to me after she performed. Only Paul knew because he heard her practicing. She even kept the songs a secret from her Mom Sara. Quite a few of Alex and Paul’s friends came to enjoy the evening. Daughter Jeanne, son-in-law David, the World’s Greatest Granddaughter Erin, and friends Joanne and Steve also joined us. We all delighted when Alex’s Mom Sara came in. We all went over to give her a big hug.

Then the host, Brian Patton, came to the microphone. He is a terrific pianist and accompanied everyone that evening. He called the first performer in the open-mic section of the evening. A man named Richard came on stage and sang, “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?” I barely knew that song and probably haven’t heard it in 40 years. A gal named Jeannie sang “What Are You Going to Do?” Bill delighted us with “Put On a Happy Face.” Kevin sang “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” an interesting song. Judith read us a poem by Sholeh Wolpe.

Ted took me back about 50 years when the musical West Side Story came to the Broadway stage. He sang the beautiful song “Somewhere.” How I loved the music from that musical. At the time it came to Broadway, Hubby was working part-time in Supreme Market with a great gal named Marie. One evening, Marie asked Hubby if he had heard of the musical West Side Story. “Sure,” he said, “it’s my wife’s favorite.” The next evening, Marie brought in the West Side Story album and gave it to him. She said that her husband, a police officer, didn’t care for it because it was about two gangs. I think I wore out the record, playing it so often. Bonnie sang “A New York State of Mind.” There were other performers and songs: “Teach Me Tonight,” “When You’re Smiling,” and “Just One of Those Things.” Max played his guitar as he sang “Put a Candle in the Window.”

Host Brian then challenged the audience to a contest. Could anyone give him ten songs in which the word “summer” appeared in the title? Many in the audience began writing their list. Daughter Sue took a paper and began writing. (I don’t believe that anyone had ten songs.) Sue gave several titles not previously given so she won one of the prizes. I think she had about seven including the Theme from a Summer Place, “Summer Love,” and “A Summer Wind.”

Then it was time for Alex’s segment. She wore a lovely turquoise-colored dress with a beautiful rhinestone necklace, which sparkled in the spotlight. She picked a wonderful group of songs to sing, ones that almost all of us knew except, perhaps, for our young granddaughter Erin. Alex began with “A Grand Night for Singing,” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair. Her next song was “Summertime,” very appropriate for a warm summer evening.

The next song was “Blame It on a Summer Night,” also an appropriate song, from the musical Rags, with music by Charles Strouse, composer of Annie. The lyrics were by Steven Schwartz, the composer and lyricist of Godspell and Pippin. Alex had never seen Rags but her voice coach Pam had told her of it. It is based on the movie Hester Street, which Alex’s Mom and Dad had taken her to see when she was a kid. It was about immigrants on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the turn of the 20th Century.

The last part of Alex’s program was a group of songs that we all knew well: “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin, “I’m Beginning to See the Light” by Duke Ellington, and one of my favorites “But Not For Me” by George Gershwin. She then sang “Till There Was You” by Meredith Wilson, from The Music Man, another of my favorite musicals. The next song was a beautiful Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein ballad, “All The Things You Are.” The following song was a Mama Cass hit “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Her final selections were “People” from Funny Girl, a huge Barbra Streisand hit, and “I Got Rhythm.” Alex sang beautifully throughout her entire session on stage. Her Mom Sara and her husband/our son Paul were beaming.

I do enjoy going to fundraisers at Florian Hall. I especially like them when there is an Irish band playing. On Sun., Aug, 8, pal Eileen Burke and I were at Florian where Noel Henry’s Band was playing. When we first went in, pal Nancy Lafoe greeted us. It was so good to see her. Eileen Colllins invited us to sit with her and Norma Conley. Then Marty and Pat Foley came in and sat with us for a long time. We asked them how much they are enjoying their new home, They told us that there are many activities to attend in their over 55 community so they are really busy. I told them both that the 100th anniversary of the Dorchester Board of Trade will be held on Oct. 20 at the Venezia Restaurant. I knew that Pat, who served as president of the organization, would want to attend. John O’Toole came around to all the tables, welcoming everyone. Tom and Barbara Cheney also came in and sat at the next table. Peggy Walsh, and her sister Ann Walsh with her husband Jack Cunningham, were at the event early and were delighted to see Eileen Burke. I was happy to receive hugs and kisses from them, too. Their sister Kay Walsh also came a little later in the evening.

There was a good-sized group from Keystone. In addition to Eileen Collins and Norma Conley, also attending were Pauline Rayburn, Phyllis Scherer, Mary Sullivan, Della Melchionda, and Marilyn Ferrara. Barbara McDonough, from Keystone, greeted me with, “Hi, Barbara McDonough!” I said the same thing back to her. Rose Weir had a wonderful time dancing with my pal Gerri Munroe. We were delighted to have Connie Sullivan chat with us a few minutes. Connie, as you know, is an aide to City Councilor Maureen Feeney. Maureen was also at the event and went around to all the tables, chatting with everyone. Phil Carver, president of the Pope’s Hill Association, enjoyed being at the event. Also chatting with quite a few people was our pal, Fr. John McCarthy, the chaplain to the Irish Community in Boston. We told Fr. John that we will miss going to the luncheon this month because those who organize the luncheon are taking a well-deserved month off. He was sorry that Deacon Kevin Heery was returning to Ireland after spending part of this summer here in Boston. Fr. John also told us that he was getting ready to move the Irish Pastoral Centre to St. Brendan’s rectory from Quincy. The official opening of the Irish Pastoral Center at St. Brendan’s will be held on Thurs., Sept. 8. The Cardinal will be there at 3 p.m. to bless the center.

I was so glad that I was able to attend the wake of my friend, John Innello, last Tues. I told his wife Caroline and her nieces that the last time I saw John was at the Mayor’s Party for those married 50 or more years last November. John and Caroline were sitting next to me at our table. They just missed out on cutting the big anniversary cake, from Konditor Meister. Another couple attending the party was married just a few months more than the Innellos’ 64 years so they were given the honor of cutting the first piece of the cake. Caroline told me that John was 97 years old. I would never have believed that. He was always so active. He was a nice man. He will be missed by many.

Here is a very worthwhile saying by an anonymous author: “Live your life so that your children can tell their children that you stood for something wonderful.”