The colossal singularity of thousands of sweaty, jostling bodies, a nearly tangible energy bursting through the air, and enough strobing stage lights to make even the fiercest epileptic wary – these are the things I remember from the concerts of my youth.
In 1938 I was five years old and I could already feel my childhood slipping away. Mutti first noticed my developing maturity one day when a loud demanding knock frightened her. Mutti’s face tightened and she pursed her lips. The Victorian pallor, in which she prided herself, seemed especially white. We both looked at the door as if awaiting a miracle.
The first time I heard the story of the opera Aida, I was sitting on the screened porch with my grandfather. Out beyond the screen, the fireflies sporadically lit the velvet darkness. On the porch, the light from the kitchen window cast a soft glow touching the top of my grandfather’s balding grey head. It didn’t quite reach me, lying prone on the old metal glider. I remained in darkness, hearing the story of the Egyptian princess who died sealed in a tomb with her lover Radames.
My father and I stop near the fountain in the middle of a plaza. Baobabs and coconut trees lean over us and we are arm in arm as if we have been walking like this our whole lives. We sit on a bench as if we are not strangers, as if twenty years and the three thousand miles between Minnesota and Colombia have never separated us.