I have been looking for consoling music to listen to during this time of crisis.
Most music is too intense for me right now.
I find — and always have — the composer Alan Hovhaness’s “Ave Maria,” Opus 100, no. 1a, for women’s chorus and instrumental accompaniment, which was composed in 1955, to be a beautiful piece that is just right right now. “Ave Maria” is part of a three-part work of the composer entitled Triptych.
My father, Alan W. Smith, had a nodding acquaintance with Hovhaness when both were in their adolescence. He and Hovhaness grew up in the same town (Arlington, Massachusetts) and had the same piano teacher.
I know I am not alone in my feelings about the treatment of migrant families and migrant children. I almost can’t bear it.
Even though, of course, I am not a victim.
A couple of things from my own personal experience help to give me some understanding of how traumatic it must be for those children:
I recall once at a young age (but it could not have been too young), I spent a night at my paternal grandparents’ house. They lived in the next town. I had been left to stay over for the night. I missed my parents, got very upset, and began to cry. My grandmother couldn’t console me. She tried very hard; she was a very nice woman. And, yet, I couldn’t accept or deal with being separated from my parents.
My wife and I dropped our first-born son off at his aunt and uncle’s house on a Saturday evening when he was about six months old. It was the first time he had ever been left in someone else’s care. They lived about an hour away from us. It was not an overnight. It was just for a few hours while we attended some event. He had a frozen look on his face and looked not only emotionally distraught, but like he could not comprehend what was occurring and was so traumatized he was unable to express any emotion. He was mute and his facial muscles were constricted. He had already met his aunt and uncle, fairly often, in pleasant circumstances.
The trauma associated with these instances is nothing compared to what the children taken away from their parents by Border Patrol agents are undergoing.
“ ‘No One Is Going to Separate Us Again’: Guatemalan Mother Reunites With Son,” The New York Times, June 23, 2018
This mother got her child back. But can you imagine the emotional harm he has experienced? If I remember vividly being emotionally distraught when I was left for one evening with my kindly grandmother (when I was around same age as the Guatemalan boy whose separation is the subject of this story), can you imagine the psychological harm done (as I have already said) and how he will never be able to overcome, forget, or bury it?