It began with a simple request from my sister in law: "Hey, Joanie, do you want to join us tomorrow singing Christmas carols at a party for the Ambassor of Kenya to the U.N.? Her neighbors go to our church and work with her, and she wants some singing at her party. We don't really know what to expect..but it will be fun to sing as a family."
The "all of us" meant my musical Patitucci family: my brother John, a bass player, his wife, Sachi, an amazing cellist, their musically gifted daughters, Gracie and Bella, my sister Renee, a professional singer, and her family, my sister Mare ( another talented singer) and her family and I, with 12 of us altogether singing. Since my sister, Renee is music director of their church, and John and Sachi are professional musicians, their friends invited them to sing. Even though I do love to sing, I must admit that I get a bit intimidated by my siblings' talent, though I couldn't miss the opportunity.
Fast forward to the Sunday afternoon….
We arrived about 20 minutes early, pulling up to a beautiful house in a neighborhood in Scarsdale. We sat outside around the corner, not wanting to arrive early and inconvenience anyone. We practiced a bit to be sure we all knew each song. This was going to be fun! I had no idea what an inspiring time it would be..
Here are some of the serendipitous gifts of our afternoon:
- Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo was a wonderfully gracious host. Although my brother's friend Karen had given us a quick briefing about how to show respect by greeting her with the proper title, we were all a tad nervous. Ambassador Ojiambo insisted that we eat before we sang: delicious Kenyan food. She personally took my niece's plate and gave her a sample of each special dish, explaining what each one was. We learned about white corn being a staple food and chapati, a delicious bread, as well.
- Not only did we get to sing carols for Kenyan Ambassador Ojiambo and her family and friends, but also for her friend: Ambassador to the U.N. from Nigeria, Joy Ogwu. We were fortunate to talk with her after we sang; she is quite an inspiring woman: a leader among the female ambassadors to the U.N. as well as a member of the Security Council. She shared that she was about to lead some very important talks about arms this week, and felt so grateful to be at a party, relaxing and recharging for her busy week.
- As we sang, I felt overcome with joy. With my brother John next to me, and my sisters in front of me, we shared smiles and tried to hold back spontaneous giggles as we recalled the Christmas carol records of our younger days. Sharing music with my brothers and sisters is something I miss so dearly, as we live across the country from each other. After several encores, Ambassador Ojiambo thanked us; I whispered a message to my brother that we should thank her for the gift that she had given us in her invitation. Tears welled up in all of our eyes as we shared our thanks with her.
- After being invited to stay at the party, and meeting many of the friends and family members of Ambassador Ojiambo, we sat by ourselves as they all disappeared upstairs to prepare a song for us. Little did we know that minutes later we would be singing and clapping along to songs from Kenya. They even made a percussion instrument out of the dome from the cake! It was a joyous time of sharing.
- As we said our goodbyes, I was touched by the grace and warmth of our host. Ambassador Ojiambo told us that the afternoon far exceeded her expectations. We had made her birthday/Christmas celebration memorable. We left, uplifted by our experience. What was to be an hour of caroling turned into an afternoon of music and sharing. Priceless memories for all of us!