In Berlin, my father’s family had a tradition of Sunday Hausmusik (house music), or what we would now call salons or jam sessions. Family members, descended from the Mendelssohns, played various instruments, and some rather illustrious guests frequented these gatherings including Albert Einstein with his violin. One of my father’s favorite childhood memories was spying on the opera singer Eleonora Duse, as she drank a raw egg in red wine to lubricate her throat.
Continuing this tradition in the “new world,” my father and I loved to sing together. We sang duets by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms, as well as old German cabaret songs. My father, who survived the horrors of World War II in Berlin, was miraculously an eternal optimist. In 1989, he gave me this poem for Christmas. I set it to music for him in the style of those Lieder we loved to sing.