Happy Birthday, Laurentine!

(This is the opening story that sets the scene for Boléro at Breakfast.)

by Matt Potter


Some afternoons I see her speeding down Sebastopol Avenue in her faded yellow Volkswagen Beetle, windows open, Beethoven blaring, gray hair knotting in the breeze.

Some Tuesday lunchtimes I sit behind her back-to-back at the Notre-Dame Tea Room. She smells of blueberries and sugar with a hint of milk as she eats her regular tunafish and mayo on pumpernickel.

And every morning Monday to Friday I hear her raspy tremor on Radio WVOC 91.3FM.

I tune in just after 7.00, listening to the dying embers of the news. Though listen … ? The report could be about the market price for maple syrup, or the Moonlight Bar on Quonsett Pond reopening for summer, or gridlock outside the Municipal Office on LaChute Street, but what I’m really waiting for is the announcement of the next track.

Sometimes she announces the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit. I think her favorite is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly (though I’m not sure, but she gives an extra curl to the i in Cha-i-lly), and she rarely plays Pierre Boulez with the Berlin Philharmonic. Most Fridays (though not every Friday, and not just on Fridays) she chooses the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa.

But my favorite – my very favorite – is Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

It’s Herr von Karajan und die Berliner Philharmoniker performing Ravel’s Boléro, Brendalee Bernard will announce. And if you’ve listened to this spot before, you’ll know to wait for the slow, soft beginning.

I’m always up at 6.15 and pottering around the house doing … well, nothing really, rubbing my hands to keep warm, brewing coffee, making toast for breakfast (sourdough, usually, though sometimes English muffins) and always with jam: elderberry or blackcurrant.

This morning is no different.

Though today I’m treating myself to both (on toasted English muffins), spread thick and glossy: one muffin of elderberry and one muffin of blackcurrant.

“You want me to make you breakfast this morning?” my husband Orton calls out from the mudroom. He’s doing something in there because I hear a lot of shuffling and some clanging but just what, I don’t know.

“No,” I say, dropping a jammy knife and two spoons into the dishwasher. “Now why would I want you to do that when I’ve made my own breakfast already, like I do every day?”

Orton leans his lanky form against the doorframe and looks at me as the dishwasher snaps shut. “On account of it’s your birthday, Laurentine.”

“Well, gosh, no,” I reply. “It’s just the same as any day.”

“You should let me spoil my ole lady on her special day,” he says.

“Funny how your ole lady has her birthday the same day as me.”

“Ah, you’re no fun.”

“No,” I say, “and I never was.” I hand him his lunchbox. “Now go do your chores and leave me alone to Brendalee. That’s enough of a birthday gift for me.”

Orton takes the lunchbox, kisses my cheek, says “Happy birthday, Laurentine,” and he’s out the door off to another plumbing job. Jeannie Argencourt over on Lasalle has a leaky cistern.

“Stay safe,” I call out.

I don’t want to miss a note because of my snapping dentures, so I reach up to the radio on top of the fridge and turn the volume dial. Then lifting my plate off the countertop, I bite into elderberry jam and muffin.

snow ten feet thick on the ground, the news report says.

I lick elderberry off my fingers and start in eating the blackcurrant.

over at Vesuviusville the snow is even thicker

I swallow blackcurrant and crunchy muffin and gaze up at the radio.

There’s the familiar rustle of paper as news items are shelved until the next bulletin at 8 o’clock, and the news ends – finally …

The wall clock flicks over to 7.05.

… Good morning, it’s 7.05 on Tuesday the 17th of January and you’re listening to Breakfast with Brendalee on WVOC 91.3FM. I’m Brendalee Bernard and it’s time for the Regular Ravel Request …

I lick blackcurrant off my fingers.

Today it’s Herr von Karajan und die Berliner Philharmoniker performing Ravel’s Boléro, originally released on Deutsche Grammophon in 1966. And if you’ve listened to this spot before, you’ll know to wait for the slow, soft beginning.

Oh …

My hand holds the plate in mid-air.

Well, she doesn’t always announce a dedication …

My finger dabs the plate and picks up toast crumbs.

Not every day is special that way.

My tongue licks the crumbs off my finger.

There are probably … plenty of days where Brendalee’s listeners don’t have birthdays.

My shoulders shrug and I place the plate on the bench. Looking up, the radio display band glares at me.

I look down at my hands, and rub them together.

What will I do for the rest of the day?

Brendalee’s probably too busy to read all the email requests for birthday dedications, and WVOC 91.3FM covers most of the county and half way to Burlington, too.

The countertop nudges my lower back as I sink against it.

That’s a lot of Vermont and a lot of Vermonters.

My hands clasp over my stomach.

And this morning’s special dedication is to birthday girl Laurentine Grimes, who turns sixty-five today. Hope your day’s a truly special day, Laurentine!

Reaching up to turn the volume even louder, I smile as soprano saxophone fills all corners of my kitchen.



Brendalee’s back announcement

For the sake of consistency, we have also provided a back announcement of Boléro, for Tuesday 17th January 2023 – click here.




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