My Sabi and I shared many things, mainly our love of art, little tchotchkes to display on bookshelves, and bialys. I’ve had a tradition since I was little of coming up to New York City at least once a year to go see Broadway shows with my Sabi and Savta. A few months ago, on one of these (pre-COVID trips), I wandered into their bedroom to find a piece of art, a little tchotchke, right by Sabi’s bedside table. It was Matisse’s Harmony in Red, and the reason it looked so familiar was because I coincidentally have the same print hanging in my room. For those who don’t know, one of the most famous details of this painting is the fact that shapes or objects in it are mostly signified by the things around them. For example, the shape of the table is marked by the leg of the chair, the vases, the fruit baskets, and the vines crawling up the sides. Because I so respected Sabi’s opinions on art (among many other things), I felt proud knowing that we shared Harmony in Red.
On that same trip, after a quick breakfast of bialys and mozzarella cheese, Sabi, Savta, and I hustled off to the theater for the revival of Oklahoma! One of the amazing things about seeing a show with Sabi is that he somehow knew all the words in the script. In fact, he knew them so well that he would finish the line of the actor on stage, causing a few awkward side stares and many “shushes” from Savta. On this particular day, I could tell Sabi was extremely excited for the songs, and as soon as the famous “Ooooklahoma!” lyrics started up, Sabi began to sing along, belting the words out, his voice clear and strong. Though I felt a bit embarrassed in the moment, I realize that as with the vines and chairs and vases of Harmony in Red, Sabi was, in his very own way, completing the show with his own special rendition.
In my life, I have been privileged enough to know the Sabi who is completed and influenced by the shapes, people, and sounds around him. He read the newspaper every morning and always knew more about practically everything than practically anyone else. And he was a wonderful listener; someone who was quiet, introspective, and kind enough to really take in what you had to say without immediately inserting his own opinion.
But I have also been privileged to be like the table in Harmony in Red, or the cast of Oklahoma!—shaped by the Sabi around me. More than anyone else, Sabi has taught me about the importance of patience, puns, and kindness. He has left a significant impact on my life, so that I think about drawing with him every time I look up at Harmony in Red plastered on my bedroom ceiling. Nor will seeing a show ever be quite the same without him finishing the line or singing “Oklahoma, ’ev’ry night my honey land and I, sit alone and talk, and watch a hawk, making lazy circles in the sky.”
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