A story concerning a very important present which managed to change the life of somebody who in fact did not want what he received.
Christmas morning in the Lee household came and went that year as it had done so many
times before with little to distinguish it from all those that had been and
would be yet there was something that made it outstanding or at least in the
mind of Parker’s sister, Kim. It being her who had spent what to her was a
considerable amount of money in getting her brother a present she was sure he
would like as how many times had he mentioned his tastes which included music
books like the one she got for him. Kim had even on one occasion visited a book
store in the company of her brother and marked how he commented on what it
would be like to have the book she had so lovingly bought for him.
Kim so much wanted to see the look on her brother’s face that she even waited to open her
presents just so she would not miss out on seeing how her brother would react
to getting a present her instincts told her he would never have expected to get
from anybody; least of all her. Kim looked on and as she did one could sense
more enthusiasm from her than from her brother, who received a grand surprise
as he opened one of the grandest presents his life had known till that moment.
It was the encyclopedia of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived. The look
on Parker’s face was one that made not the least effort to conceal its almost
total joy as his eyes read the title of the book he had so much wanted yet
would never have in all honesty bought for himself; thinking 50 dollars was
simply too much money to ever spend on a book. This being regardless of how
much he wanted it.
It was after having seen his present that Parker with enthusiasm turned to his sister,
crying out “Open yours and see what it is!”. Kim had not expected to get a
present from her brother as to her way of seeing matters she would be making as
much use of the stereo which her brother had bought for the family. She however
was joyful as she opened her brother’s present. As in all truth she had not
expected anything for herself, given how they had not talked about what
presents (if any) they would be exchanging. Kim opened her present slowly (not
wanting to tear in to the paper) with more curiosity than anything else as to
what her brother might have gotten her.
It was however with mixed emotions that Kim welcomed her present which in all honesty
she had not even expected to get yet there was a part of her that told her that
she ought to be angry. Parker had given this as a present not so much to her
but to himself, as she more than likely would not be of an ear to appreciate
such music. All of which making it clear that it would be he and her father who
would be listening to this CD collection and not her. She however had received
something yet in a way felt she had not though this she would not say; for she
was all too aware that her parents would refer to her as an ingrate.
Kim however for her part on any other occasion would not have reacted to this present yet
she had spent what to her budget was a lot for a present for her brother and
though she in a way had received a stereo that she could use; she did feel she
had been cheated. It was something she could not explain even to herself yet
she felt uncomfortable with the present she had received, not even knowing what
to say other than “thank you” in a way that combined shyness and some confusion
as to the reason for this present to someone like herself whose musical taste
could scarcely have been further from this sort of music.
Parker in all this was too caught up in his joys of the season that included not only the
presents he had given but the ones he had received to even take note of his
sister’s reaction. It being with a “I hope you enjoy my present as much as I
know I will enjoy yours and may it bring you closer to another culture” that he
spoke to his sister as he and his father went about setting up the stereo. As
for the rest of the day it was spent as are most Christmas days with activities
that included eating and talking and above all being together which in the case
of Parker’s family meant sharing the gift of music thanks to their new stereo.
Parker was clearly enjoying himself listening to all the CDs he could now enjoy
of what was his and his father’s favorite music while Kim and his mother simply
listened on; not really minding the sounds of jazz.
Kim however all the while could not figure out how to feel regarding her brother’s gift
which she knew full well she would never enjoy. As this was not what she liked
yet on the other hand she knew of no real reason to be angry. She after all had
purchased her brother a present not expecting anything in return yet she did
feel that after having spent so much she should have gotten something. This to
the point of sensing in herself that perhaps no present would have been better
than this present, for to her it was almost like giving somebody who had a very
long beard a shaving kit. In all reality it would be unfair to say Kim was
furious at her own brother for giving her something she did not like as she
would have use of the family stereo yet there was something in her that longed
to repay her brother in a similar fashion. She could always say she did not wish
her brother to listen to the CDs he had given her but then again her father
could also say that he did not wish her to use what in fact was his stereo.
There was something in all this that she could not get away from the sensation that
something had to be done to show if not only herself that she too was capable
of such antics or at least to make her brother see what he should have known
and it being that just because he appreciated something; this did not mean
everybody else had to. It being the case that the world held so much culture
which could be treasured yet this did not mean one had to, for she in all
reality could have purchased a book she would have enjoyed yet refrained from
doing so; giving her knowledge which told her that her brother was of different
It was actually during those moments of sitting around the living room, listening to
the jazz music her father and brother enjoyed so much that her mind was made to
get a spot of revenge for this present and though she would say nothing to
imply what was coming; she would get her brother one of the same kind of
present that she could claim was a part of culture. Kim however knew not
exactly what it would be yet had an idea of what she had always considered to
be of the so called higher culture that to her seemed so boring yet to some it
apparently was not.
Of course to her it was also her brother’s words regarding culture that had upset her to
the point of wanting to say something in retaliation yet felt that perhaps
wisdom dictated that the point she had to make would be best expressed in
actions. Kim also much to her credit could see a certain perhaps desire in her
brother to bring to her something new which might broaden her horizons yet she
did feel this was something she was capable of reaching for herself without it
being imposed on her. As to a certain extent it was.
It was at one point that Kim’s mother made an observation which caught the attention of
her brother in a way that made her smile to herself as it gave her the perfect
idea as to what might make her brother see her point. He mother stating that
the jazz music they were listening to her was as complicated as an Italian
opera. This making both her husband and son reply with some indignation that
Italian opera was something completely different and for those of not only
another culture but race since there was no real passion in that sort of music
that they as African Americans could ever really appreciate. Kim however did
make an observation which to her was one she almost was certain had to be
stated in the form of “but don’t all people express their passion or soul in
one way or another through art?”.
It was not that she had said something that neither her brother or father had not heard
before yet these words took on some wisdom at that moment that made her father
stop and reflect as he replied “I guess you’re right in theory but those people
is just different than us that’s all” with a certain degree of being in accord
with her or at least in a general way. Parker for his part, perhaps wishing to
show off that he was one whose cultural level was one to go beyond all boarders
replied “You are right sister, there is something to all art forms that we
should always try to appreciate even or specially if they are different than
our own that is why I hope you will listen to Miles Davis and perhaps evolve
from what you’ve been.”.
It was at that moment as Kim replied “I will try to” that she knew what she was going to
do and that would be to get her brother the most boring Italian opera music she
could get her hands on even if she would have to spend all the money she had.
She of course would have to wait till there was an occasion and her funds were
reestablished yet this would not be long and even if it took till the following
Christmas she would have her small revenge or at least make her brother feel as
she had. As if something were to a certain extent above her or as if hers were
the ways of those who required to be brought up to a high level.
The following year however went by as will and have all which have been with Kim basically forgetting what she had
promised herself to do and it was not till Christmas season returned that again
she underwent the desire to see how her brother might react to a present of a similar
nature as had been given her. Kim however did not really know what she was
going to buy her brother yet it was when her mind was going through many
options that music would be the clear choice. This given that this had been
what her brother had given her in the hope of rising her cultural horizons or
so he had said yet what would raise his was the question on her mind which to a
certain extent had been answered by his comment regarding Italian opera.
Kim however did not know the first thing about opera other than it was a music she did not
like or wish to ever listen to yet she had made up her mind to bore her
brother. She would go over to a CD store and ask the salesman which music would
be the least enjoyable to someone who was miles from being an opera fan.
It was with this goal in mind that she went to the closest CD store where she quickly made
her way to the classical section. She being one who did not know the first
thing about opera or even the names of any of the composers or operas had set
it in her mind to ask. It did not take long for an older man to approach her
and ask how he might help her in a conversation which went as follows.
salesman: May I help you, young lady?
Kim: Yes, I would like to buy a CD or two of opera music.
Salesman: Is there any specific composer or opera you have in mind?
Kim: Well, I don’t know anything about opera but let’s say I want something that is long and different then pop music.
salesman: Well, there are many operas I can recommend you but do you have any ideas?
Kim: None what so ever, that is why I need your help but let’s just say this. I want to get my bother a present and I just thought opera was for him.
salesman: I see your brother is an opera fan.
Kim: No, that’s not it, see my brother gave me a jazz CD last Christmas so I want to get
something that I know he won’t like so he can see how it is to get something
you don’t want.
salesman: Oh, I see. That is strange, so you want to bore your brother well let me see what is the last opera I would recommend to somebody who is not an opera fan?
Kim: Any Italian opera would be good.
salesman: Oh, I see you want Italian opera.
Kim: Isn’t all opera Italian?
salesman: No, not at all, actually there is German opera, French opera, Russian opera, Polish opera and even American opera.
Kim: You telling me there is also such a thing as American opera?
salesman: Yes, there is even a jazz opera by Gershwin called “Porgy And Bess”. Have you heard the song “Summertime” by Gershwin?
Kim: Yes, why do you ask?
salesman: Well it was a part of the opera “Porgy And Bess”, so would you wish to get that one for your brother?
Kim: Well, not really that might not bore him like the CD by Miles Davis he got me but
tell me which opera do you think is the most difficult to listen to for someone
who is not an opera fan?
salesman: Well, most people try to buy something to please somebody but let me see what
could I get for him that would be not so easy to listen to and who knows he may
actually like it?
Kim: I hope not but who knows. I just wanna teach him a lesson not to give me presents I don’t want or that he knows are going to be for him.
salesman: I have an idea (looking inspired) of something he might like or rather not like. Come with me and I will show it to you.
The salesman goes first as Kim follows a few isles to where he takes out a CD which he shows
his interested customer. Kim reads the title “Othello” by Verdi and becomes in
way enthusiastic in a way that the salesman notices.
salesman: Well I hope this does the trick of boring your brother.
Kim: I didn’t know that Othello was an opera, I thought it was a book by Shakespeare. I remember reading that in high school or is it the same Othello?
salesman: Actually it is. Verdi was an Italian opera composer who wrote operas based on some of Shakespeare’s books. He also wrote an opera based on Macbeth.
Kim: I liked Othello and Macbeth when I was in school, I remember reading Othello
again just for myself after reading it for school. You know what I think I will
get Othello and who knows I may like it even if he does not or actually I hope
he does not. See the truth is he gave me the jazz CD for himself so it may turn
out that these CDs may be for me instead of him.
salesman: Well that is an interesting concept of giving presents but would you like to see Macbeth as well?
Kim: Sure why not I might get both of them. (salesman shows Kim CDs of both Macbeth and
Othello, Kim takes a good look). Oh, look at this, isn’t that that famous opera
singer, what’s his name?
salesman: Yes, it’s Pavarotti.
Kim: Yeah, that’s the one I know well actually it’s the only one I know but why is he playing a black character or don’t they have black opera singers?
salesman: Of course they do, there is Jesse Norman and Barbara Hendricks.
Kim: Well them I don’t know but I will get these two Shakespeare stories and you know I didn’t know there were black characters in opera.
salesman: Well, actually one of the most famous characters in opera was black.
Kim: Really, who was that?
salesman: Aida is another character in a Verdi opera, she was a slave in Egypt
who fell in love with an Egyptian general by the name of Ramades (smiling as he
sees an interest perking in his customer) but it ended tragically well like
most operas do.
Kim: I heard all operas are tragedies.
salesman: Well that is not really so but most are, sort of like Shakespeare who did not only write about people dying at the end.
Kim: That’s true and I wanna thank you. I didn’t know there were black opera singers or black people in opera.
salesman: Well, I am just glad I helped you in your selection so which ones will you take?
Kim: All three of them and I mean the Othello, Macbeth and that one about the slave.
salesman: I think you mean Aida?
Kim: Yeah, that’s the one you said and I like that name.
salesman: It would be funny if because of your CDs he became an opera fan.
Kim: Yeah, imagine that he might even become an opera singer. He was thinking of becoming a jazz singer so who knows he already has different taste in music.
salesman: Well, I hope you enjoy them at least if he does not and really they are lovely pieces of drama, so will that be all?
Kim: Yes, that will be all and where may I pay for it?
salesman: Just follow me and I will show you.
Kim followed the salesman thinking she would show her brother what it was like to
get a present one really did not want or one that really did not fit in to
one’s personality in spite of how others might appreciate it. Naturally as was
the case with most presents she gave she went about wrapping it and handing it
to her brother just as she had done the year before when Christmas day had
arrived. It however was with a completely different surprise in mind that she
handed this present to her brother and as she waited for him to open it, she in
a sense felt that he was helping her brother gain in culture; for she in fact
was the one in the family who had a taste for literature of the sort even if
not for the music that on this occasion came along with it.
Parker for his part opened his presents from his sister and though he was almost in shock
at what he saw he did his utmost to hide any disappointment or say anything
that his sister might take as negativity to this well intended or perhaps not
so much so but definitely culturally motivated music. It was not that Parker
had anything against opera or music that was another than jazz yet in all
honesty had never considered ever buying it on CD or any other form for that
matter. He even had friends who played opera at their house as some of the
musicians he knew were fans and in all honesty did not find certain of its
pieces so much against his taste as he might have at first thought yet was
wondering as he looked at the CDs he received from his sister if “Aida” and
“Othello” and “Macbeth” by Verdi would be to his liking. He for his part had
never heard an opera in its entirety thinking it would be overly tiring to do
so but now would have the perfect opportunity and ultimately if these CDs
turned out not to be for him he could always sell them to some of his friends.
He naturally hoped he could find something in opera to entertain him and it was
with this in my mind that he said thank you to his sister though not as
enthusiastically as he might have had it been jazz.
Kim had not been surprised that her brother had not said anything to put down her presents
in any way yet felt he was struggling with the idea of having received something
that was not really to his taste even if it was of a culture considered
elevated; as was the jazz he so much prided himself in being a fan of. Parker
in fact in a way was glad with what he had got even if he had not really
expected anything from the one whom this year he had not purchased anything for
yet had not forgotten completely in the form of a card and 5 dollar gift certificate
Parker in all truth had received a gift he did not really appreciate all that much for
what it was yet felt he would at least give them a try by listening to these
CDs he had received before he decided if their fate would be to stay in his
collection or perhaps he could pass them on to a friend whenever the occasion
came of a birthday or something of the sort. Parker at first listened to the
CDs he was given more like somebody who has been invited to dinner at somebody’s
house and was eating the food he had been served yet not with the zest that
allows one to enjoy one’s meal but the sense of politeness that makes one eat
that which be not more than palatable. He on the one hand had always taken
pride in being able to appreciate that which was of a higher culture even if it
was not to his specific taste and this to a large degree was a way to proof to
others that he was one not limited in his tastes.
It was with this attitude that at first Parker listened to his new opera CDs yet in them
found something he had not experienced before or ever thought he would and it
being a love for the passion in another form of singing and music than he had
known till then. Naturally he upon hearing these CDs for the first few times found
them hard to follow as not only the melodies but harmonies were not so easy to
grasp yet he being one who was accustomed to music that was not so simple did
not have such a difficult time adjusting his ear to that which he would
eventually go on to enjoy more than he would have ever hoped.
At first his father was unable to understand this in him that he who had been so
dedicated to Jazz was almost changing yet in all Parker insisted that his was
but curiosity to compare the two forms of music yet in all he continued to
listen to this which to him was a new form of music. It being to the extent
that his actually transformed gradually from curiosity to admiration to liking
toward adoration to the point that he even started considering taking up this
sort of singing. Naturally as was expected his father was strongly against any
such moves that would see his son distance himself from the music that he
considered to be of his people specially toward one to which his son was not
born in to yet it was Parker who told him that in fact there were many black
opera singers through out the world; one of them even having stared in a French
film called “Diva” which he very much came to admire.
It was not that Parker’s father in fact had anything against his son’s new found love for
opera yet in all truth he had hoped his son would follow in his choice of
music. This being more connected to his feeling that their was a certain sense
of rhythm to jazz that came more natural to black people as opposed to
classical music or opera which came with more ease to Caucasians yet in all was
willing to respect his son’s choice. Parker in all reality knew his father was
bound to make comments about his change in taste yet all in all could feel his
father in his own way respected his choice even if it came accompanied by
comments that mentioned how if even white people wanted to play black music; he
wanted to take from their music. These comments being met with Parker replying
that music was not for or of a particular race but for any who chose to enjoy
it yet this to his father was not the point for he felt it was his son’s duty
to continue the culture of his ancestors yet knew it was not for him to choose.
Kim at first felt strange that it had been her who to a large extent had been
responsible for her brother’s change. As she even remembered her conversation
with the salesman who suggested that he might become an opera fan though this
she did not take as a serious option till it became reality. Parker for his
part was thankful to his sister for having exposed him to something new and
though he was aware she had wanted to in part get even with him for the present
he got her; he could also see how his sister’s present had influenced him to
the point of getting him started on being the opera singer he had become.
Kim eventually became Parker’s manager as she too came to appreciate the opera in
her own way and in what became of the now famous opera CDs; these she would get
back when she eventually got the same operas for her brother on DVD. Parker
suddenly was brought back to the present which included his triumph at the New
York Metropolitan opera and as he sat in his dressing room (just after having
had his make up removed) he thought about his life and career; both of which
had exceeded all his expectations. It being thanks to not only those CDs but
those who had believed in him such as Getty, who told him that one did not need
to be German or Italian to sound the part of those great characters; for the
passion to create them could not be found in race or nationality but sentiments
for the music which he more than had.
Parker’s had been a long journey of success and fortune yet to a certain extent it had
all started on a jest on his part when he gave his sister a present he in reality
had hoped to benefit from which perhaps made it all the more spectacular. All
of which making him feel that he in fact was somebody who perhaps had been
intended to be where he was though for the time being this did not matter for
what did was his wishes to quickly join those who had come to celebrate; this
which was not only his moment but to a certain extent theirs as well.