Larger Than Life

I had the good fortune of having lunch with a good friend/former housemate/colleague yesterday.  Though we are separated by a decade in age, and alomst 80 miles of gegoraphy, our lives are remarkably connected.  Not just because we have the same first name, went to the same college, teach the same subject, and worked at the same school, but also because of who he married.

I met his inlaws for the first time when I picked him up for lunch yesterday.  They have deep roots in Modesto.  His father-in-law is a successful contractor in the area and his  mother-in-law teaches nursing at Modesto Junior College; where both of my parents taught for over 25 years.  When Mike introduced me and his mother-in-law heard my last name she said, “Woodward?  Mike you didn’t tell me his last name; all you said was you were going to lunch with your friend Mike; I don’t remember you mentioning his last name.”

“Well, I…” Mike began.

“Are they Lewis and Shirley?” Interjected mom.

“Yes, that’s my mom and dad.” I answered with a smile.

“Oh, I think I took music apprectiaton from your dad,” Mike’s father-in-law chimed in.

“Probably; he taught that as well as music history and….”

“Didn’t they also have some sort of performance program,” inquired mom-in-law.

“Yeah, my dad built the opera theater program at MJC and did MPA many a summer.”

“What productions?”

“Oh, lots, Brigadoon, Sound of Music, Pirates of Penzance, Music Man; lots of stuff

“Yes, I remember some of those.”

Having made the connection to my parents we spent several more minutes bantering making associations between people both they and my parents knew.  It was truly amazing how many associations were made in less than 10 minutes. 

“I always thougth your mom was larger than life.”  Said Mike’s mother-in-law.  That brought a flood of memories to me of my mom playing piano, teaching piano lessons at home, playing for the Modsto and San Jose Symphonies, always encourging young pianists.  Actually what first came to mind was, ‘what a nice thing to say’, which was quickly followed by a reccollection of the “Shirley Woodward Festival of Young Pianists”.  This is an annual festival my mom started which did not take on her name until she retired from MJC; it’s been happening for more than 30 years.

It was both awesome and humbling to be reminded of the lives my mom has touched, and the legacy she has left.  I shared Mike’s mother-in-laws comment with my mom and she took it with her typical grace and ‘I was just doing  my job’ attitude, “Oh,” (grin) “well that was very nice of her to say.”

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