August 24th, 2002


Baby Roberta

Dad’s copy of Ulysses contains a special bookmark. It’s a snapshot he took of of Mom and me about thirty years ago, and it rests between pages 206 and 207. Underlined in red is this sentence:

“Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life.”

Mom’s big passion was opera. She had several shelves full of vinyl 78s in thick boxes, and she always said those big records produced a much warmer and “alive” sound than the sleek CDs that took up much less space. On Saturdays she turned on the Texaco-Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. Throughout my childhood I became familiar with and grew to love the lyrical flights of Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti, Gabrielli, and others.

Maria Callas and Ebe Stignani’s duet in Act I of Bellini’s Norma always made Mom weep. “Oh! rimembranza!…lo fui cosi…” Now whenever I put on that record I feel a tingling on my arms, and I see my sweet mother’s face, eyes closed, entranced.

But things always change.

That venerable institution—begun in 1940—was recently renamed. Now it’s the CHEVRON-Texaco-Metropolitan Opera broadcast. Next thing you know, it’ll be the “Sony-AOL-Time-Warner-CHEVRON-Texaco.”