I’ll start this out by saying that my husband is the best. He’s done something for me that is beyond thoughtful. Here’s how it started:
My birthday is today. I’ve been excited this year to have a birthday on a weekend. I was really looking forward to celebrating for three days. Then this recurrence happened and I had chemo yesterday, which means that for part of my weekend I will be feeling very poorly. Big disappointment. My husband told me that he would be taking me out of town for a surprise trip the weekend before my birthday. He didn’t give me a single clue as to where we were going.
We headed north until we were in Akron, Ohio. I thought maybe we would go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, very close to Akron. Still no clues from him. We had dinner and dessert on the recommendation of a close friend who’s an Akron native and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
In order for the rest of this story to make sense, you need to know that I really like history, especially the history of the Middle Ages (476-1500). I had a professor in college who was incredibly knowledgeable about European history and I was hooked. I’ve read both fiction and nonfiction books about the Middle Ages and would love to get a degree in medieval history and inspire students the way my professor inspired me.
I’ve wanted something from the Middle Ages for a long time. I did a Google search a long time ago and came upon the name of a man who deals in art and choir books and Bible verse miniatures from that time period. I realized that the perfect thing for me would be a page of Gregorian chant. It would combine my desire to own something from the time period with my love of music. I found what I was looking for on his website. It wasn’t as costly as I thought it would be but it wasn’t cheap. I put it out of my mind and when it resurfaced this year I told myself, “Not now. Too much going on. It probably won’t happen.”
Unbeknownst to me my husband remembered the dealer’s name. He looked on the website and called and spoke to an employee about his plan: to surprise me with a trip to the shop so that I could find something I like. He’d already made an appointment for Saturday morning.
I was still 100% clueless when we set out to go to our appointment. When we parked the car he said, “You’re here to shop at CP’s store for something from the Middle Ages.” I just about hyperventilated in the car. I was literally gasping for air. I couldn’t believe that he had put this thing together. As we got out of the car I threw my arms around him for a huge hug and thanked him.
We went to the door and there stood CP and his wife, T. I had enough composure to smile and shake their hands and say “I am so, so happy to meet you!” They were absolutely lovely to us. We went to the area where the materials are stored and he showed me where to start looking. Before I did that I saw a cat and went over to pet it, because if there’s a cat, that’s what I do. The cat was willing to be petted so I did that for a minute and we all started talking about cats. They told us about their four rescue cats and we told them that at one point we had five, so we had a lot in common. The four of us sat and chatted about pets for some time and then I realized I shouldn’t take up too much of their time, so I started going through the leaves of Gregorian chants. They were breathtaking. I pulled out all the ones I liked and then I looked at miniatures of Bible verses. They were so, so beautiful. The writing was so tiny and the illustrations were exquisite.
I had to decide whether I wanted to spend less on the chant so I could also buy a miniature, but in the end I spent all the money on the chant. It’s from 1460-90 and was created in Sevilla, Spain, at the Cathedral of Sevilla. My daughter lived in Sevilla for three months in 2014 and we visited her there and the Cathedral was my first visit to a medieval structure. I was so moved that I almost wept standing on the ancient stones. The chant is the Ave Maria, which I love.
It’s written on vellum, which is animal skin. There is a beautifully illustrated letter “A.” CP told us that many people were involved in the production of these leaves, from making the vellum to making preliminary notes on where the music should be placed, to someone who made the ink and quills and kept them sharpened, someone who put the gold leaf on the letters to the man who actually wrote the music down. We learned so much from him.
CP and T invited us to go to lunch with them, which was a lovely surprise. We had a really good time. I think if we all lived in the same place we would have a nice friendship. For now we’ll have to be friends on Facebook.
At the moment I don’t know how to read medieval music, so I can’t play the melody of the chant. One of my immediate goals is to learn how to read it so I can transcribe it. I also need to try to translate all the words. My four years of high school Latin taught me a lot but I don’t remember enough to translate it. This is going to be a fun project for me.
I took my treasure to the framer on Tuesday. I’m so excited that it will soon be hanging on the wall near my piano where I can look at it every single day.
So now you see another reason why my husband is such a great guy. In addition to being at my side every step of the way in life, he goes to chemo with me, encourages me to eat when I don’t feel much like doing it, lets me cry on his shoulder and then tells me it’s time to go get some ice cream, and he comes up with incredibly thoughtful ways to make me happy. I am one fortunate wife.