Many of the houses along Summer Street are old in the nicest way – you still can see the 1920s and ’30s written all over them – but for all the years I have loved this small city and remembered my time teaching here, I has never before been in this Summer Street church. It looks like the inside of one of those sugared Easter eggs, like Paradise the way people once pictured Paradise, with arches and frescoes and an altar like something sculpted out of ice. When you sit in its hushed high space it could almost BE 1920 again, the birth year of the lady we were there to memorialize.
And what a lady she was. I knew her as the mother of my student Lisa, who in English class answered every one of my questions almost before I got done asking them. Mrs. C. used to come to the Parents’ Nights and fix me with a few looks that made me wonder if the whole front of my dress wasn’t unbuttoned. And really how could I blame her? She was a woman in her 50s who had given birth to six children and buried two. I was a kid of 23 presuming to tell her things about her daughter. She did smile when I said Lisa could go to any college she wanted - wasn’t Lisa’s next oldest brother a senior at Dartmouth? – but she knew Lisa and Lisa had her own plans. In the end the years passed and we had our babies together, or almost together. I still remember going to her house with the maternity clothes I knew I wouldn’t need again.
From the pulpit yesterday Lisa told great and funny stories about a woman many called feisty though as Lisa said “feisty” didn’t come close to expressing it. From the pulpit that same Dartmouth brother told great stories too and it wasn’t because he represents the 8th Congressional District of Massachusetts that you could hear a pin drop as he spoke. Like Lisa, he had to stop once or twice to collect himself.
After Lisa’s daughter Carly finished singing four or five other songs with a voice like silver filigree, she launched into “We’ll Meet Again,” just as the priest was blessing the coffin. It’s a song from the era when Rita was a young bride waiting for her war-hero groom to come home to her and it cheered me so to look across the aisle and see that small knot of her special pals swaying and singing along.
I went to Mr. Capuano’s wake some 16 years ago now, for Lisa. And for Mike. And for Mrs. C. I went too because I could never forget how tender that man always was with me because on some level, he told me once, I reminded him of their child Karen, lost to polio and born the same year I was born.
I couldn’t get to Mrs. C’s wake the other night because I was on the road but I am so. so glad I got to the funeral. Because where else can you go to see – really SEE a person’s family send him off wrapped in so much love?
Lisa now, with one of her two famous-actor sons, Scott Evans