Every Wednesday night, at 11 o’clock, sometimes a little after, in a little room in a little club on Columbus Avenue in Boston, pianist Michael Kreutz plays his closing number, “What I Did for Love,” a song from the hit musical “A Chorus Line.”
Wednesday is show-tune night at the Napoleon Room at Club Cafe, and for three hours Kreutz sings and plays and other people get up and sing, so many faces and voices familiar, but always some new ones, too, every week different.
But what never changes is the final number, which we sing all together. Sometimes the singing is raucous and sometimes it’s tender. But no matter the mood, the song is true. It’s the reason we sing, the reason we stay out until all hours of the morning, the reason all of us do all the crazy things we all do.
Kiss today goodbye,
The sweetness and the sorrow.
Wish me luck, the same to you.
But I can’t regret
What I did for love, what I did for love.
When I was a kid, I learned to write with a pen dipped in ink. There were inkwells built into our wooden desks back then and it was a big, big deal, graduating from pencil, which you could erase, to pen, which was indelible.
Dipping the tip of a pen and getting just enough ink so that it didn’t spatter or smear or leave a big black spot was an art.
Making cursive, easy-to-read letters was an art, too.
But blotting the carefully drawn words, taking thick absorbent paper and pressing firmly on the still wet vowels and consonants. Pressing and pausing — slowing down — this was important because it preserved the art.
Singing “What I Did for Love” on Wednesday nights always brings this to mind because it’s a slowing down, too, a pausing to preserve something beautiful: lives lived and what we all do for love.
Christmas was just a few days ago, and all we do for Christmas we do for love, too. Love — why we rush to get everything right, to get everything finished, to please, to surprise. Love — why we try so hard to be thoughtful and creative and patient and generous and kind.
And then, bang. Right in the middle of it, before we can process even some of it — the magic of snow, the children’s smiles, friends stopping by, all the holiday cards and twinkly lights, the giving, the holiness of the season — Christmas is over. Finished. Like a TV show interrupted by a power failure. Like a windstorm to be cleaned up after. It’s done. It’s time to move on and get ready for a new year.
But I am not ready to move on.
Charlotte, 5, sang holiday songs about Kwanzaa and Ramadan and Hanukkah and Christmas. Lucy, 9, dressed up like Tracy Turnblad and belted out “Good Morning, Baltimore.” Caryn and John came by because they haven’t moved to South Carolina yet. Shelly took the train again this year to be with us. We did face time with the kids in New York. There was food and wine and family and friends, a dusting of snow, and a whole day of celebration.
And I didn’t overcook the turkey this year.
Love is never gone.
As we travel on,
Love’s what we’ll remember.
We don’t dip pens in ink anymore. We don’t have to be careful with our words because we delete. And we don’t have to worry that our words will smudge.
It’s all good.
Except that when writing took longer, when you thought about your words and wrote slowly, when you looked at them again after you blotted, they were so much harder to forget.
I don’t want to forget the love that filled this Christmas. So I am lingering in its aftermath, waiting for the ink to dry.