One two three. It’s easy to remember goddaughter Stella’s birthday because she was born on the first month’s 23rd day.
There are about a thousand great Stella stories that stand out in my memory, but here’s one of our favorites:
Stella has always had remarkable musical abilities and she started playing classical piano when she was a very little girl. So we were very happy to receive an invitation to one of her first recitals when she was, let’s say, ten years old.
We arrived at the appointed recital hall at the appointed time on the appointed day, weaved our way through the crowded room and found that Dan and Caren, her parents, had saved us a couple seats. We settled in for what we thought would be a bunch of little girls in pretty dresses struggling through something barely more sophisticated than Chopsticks.
How wrong we were. Stella’s competitors were a group of very talented, but incredibly intense Indian and Chinese girls. Their intensity made itself obvious by the beads of sweat dripping down their foreheads as they played, the veins bulging in their necks, the tight straight lines that were their lips, and most obviously by the stage mothers who seemed to live and die with every perfect and not-so-perfect note their daughters hit. They played not with joy, but with two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, seventh game of the World Series stress etched on all their beautiful little girl faces. They faced down their keyboards as if they were demons and they were engaged in mortal combat.
To be absolutely honest, many of them were incredible pianists. But is this really the kind of situation you really want to throw your little girl into?
Stella was a little different. As far as we could tell she played perfectly. Maybe she was tense. Maybe she was as stressed as all the other little girls. But she didn’t show it if she was. She played as if she might be a bit disinterested, looking around the room, maybe even giving a little nod and a smile to her parents in the crowd during a particularly difficult portion of some étude or concerto or whatever the hell she was playing. (As you can probably tell, I am quite the classical music enthusiast.)
Soon after that recital Stella announced that she was bored by classical music and was switching over to free form jazz, something that would give her a chance for much more creativity. Some folks might say this was a strange decision for a little girl, but young Stella has always been advanced beyond her tender years.
So an accomplished jazz pianist she became. And before too long she was invited to join a band that played gigs at well-known venues all around Los Angeles. She continued with that band throughout her high school years.
Stella’s twenty-one today and still a very creative young woman. She majors in film at an elite East Coast university.
Happy birthday, Stella. We love you and can’t wait to see your name scroll across the big screen for the first time.