A Sympathetic Second Soprano by
(21 Stories)

Prompted By Turning Points

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I really should, at the end of this Retrospect enterprise, tell the story of meeting John and Patti. So much good has come in my life as a direct result of sitting down, in about the fourth pew from the front of the church, about three seats in from the left-hand aisle, next to a sympathetic looking second soprano. Little did I know then, in August (or September) of 1983, that she would become my closest friend, keep my spirits up through a miserable divorce, cheer for me at nursing school graduation, and be a solid refuge over and over. Patti, the sympathetic second soprano I met on my first day singing with Schola Cantorum in Los Altos, California, eventually stood up with me when I got married to the right guy, became godmother to my first child, and just this afternoon, called me to wish me love and best wishes in the new year.

No good friendship is perfectly happy all the time. We struggled a time or two. Any longstanding friendship stretches and even cracks sometimes as lives change, jobs come and go, people move away, move back, move on. But Patti is someone I can count on. She gets my marriage, she knows my kids, she knew my parents. She’s a Giants fan. She picked me up after my first endoscopy, drove me home and put me to bed. I held her hand and kissed her cheek before her cancer surgery. We’ve frolicked in the waves on Maui and hiked hard and fast around Windy Hill. I’ve written her poems and she’s come to hear me read. When I needed help really fast at the last minute to make a flower girl dress for my daughter, two days after my father-in-law died unexpectedly and three days before my brother’s wedding, Patti came, cut and sewed with me. Who else but a sympathetic second soprano would do that?

I don’t know what it was I saw in her face that evening, 1983, ten minutes before 7 pm. Her smile? Her kindness? Her good taste in clothes – comfy and pretty all at the same time? It doesn’t matter. That was a turning point for me, that choice to sit next to her. So much good has come from knowing Patti (and of course John) for me and my family. I have so many photos, but none of that night, we didn’t know then what we were embarking on.

Oh well, she’s such a beautiful woman, and I’m grateful to her for her love. That’s enough I hope. This photo is from the 80’s at least, so you’ll get the idea. Long may she sing, my sympathetic second soprano.


Profile photo of Jennifer Swanton Brown Jennifer Swanton Brown
Poet. Nurse. Teacher. Mom. Daughter. Sister. Knitter. Swimmer. Contemplative in training. Follow "A Twirly Life" (twirlyword.wordpress.com).

Characterizations: been there, right on!


  1. Patricia says:

    Thank you, dear Jenny! It’s the moments that make a life, and we have shared so many. I can’t imagine what this journey would have been like without you in my corner. Your intellect, fearlessness, and strength in the face of all that can, at times, seem pointless gives me hope. We shall continue to sing out, we proud second sopranos!

  2. gsbate says:

    Lovely appreciation story.

  3. John Zussman says:

    Amen! I’m going to frame this.

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