"Mama" (Elisabet Provos-Killig & her son, Niels Provos)
Anyone even slightly familiar with me will know that I'm scarcely the sort who'd title a picture "Mama" (only two syllables?).....but "Mama" was the headline of the email Niels Provos sent to me a couple of years ago (he'd made a telephone call just beforehand, although we scarcely knew each other at that time) to tell me that his mother, my longtime, German friend&pal, Elisabet Provos-Killig, had died....quite suddenly (if peacefully, to be honest about the matter) and, by anyone's standards, all too young.  So, the picture (which I intend to send to Niels, who works for Google and these days lives in California..... far-far from Lubeck, where he was raised) is titled "Mama".
 
Elisabet did love her two sons (Arne and Niels) and her husband.  I taught with her for eight or so Summers at the Hill School in Pennsylvania, where we became quite close friends during that first Summer....back in 1990 or so.  She was the most forcefully and infectiously energetic woman I'd ever met....completely fluent in English, of course, and teaching French while at the school....which is to say, she was no one's dummy.  Her students loved her, of course.
 
Needless to say?----- she drove the old-boy/history-teacher/football-coach types (there are, predictably enough, a lot of these at snooty-boots Boys' Boreding Skoolz) completely nuts.  If nothing, she could outrun all of them and outwalk any of them.  At the same time?.....she was perfectly polite to everyone.....but, equally obviously, didn't give a good f***k what any of them thought of her.  She spent her time teaching and laughing (I've never known anyone who laughed so much...in her low alto voice).
 
For better or worse, I took her as a role model, and we remained good friends and constant correspondents (she also telephoned at least once per week, until she died) for years.  Herve and I were lucky enough, a few years ago, to be able to visit her and her husband (who was still alive at that time) in Lubeck.....a beautiful, small, and ancient city on the Baltic.
 
By that time?...Elisabet had already had her first stroke (for no apparent reason whatosever) and was already in a wheechair.  Predictably enough?....she had the thing's wheels fitted out with whirling flame discs, and she didn't slow down any more than was absolutely required.
 
She rode in her Chariot of Fire when she came to visit Herve and me in Durham, just a few years ago.  One of my favorite memories of her involves the night when she taught me how to bake (I don't bake anything) her famous apple tart.  We worked for 2 hours, did everything EXACTLY RIGHT....and she was sitting in her wheelchair, ten feet from me, as I finally and proudly lifted it out of the oven.  Just as I did so?.,...I tripped over one of the terriers, and the damn pie went sailing across the kitchen....landing in a soggy, glass-shard mess at her feet.
 
You've never heard a woman laugh so hard and so long.....and  we both agreed that the incident was all far better than any perfect pie could ever have been.
 
She died on an airplane....apparently of a sudden, second stroke while on her way back from one of her regular visits to in-laws in Greece. As I gathered, she got on the plane, made pleasant chatter to her seat mate, asked for a gin&tonic, happily got it,....and then just died without making a bit of fuss for anyone.  She always was, after all, strikingly independent, and she didn't like being coddled.
 
The night of the pie incident, she kept asking me to replay one of my own favorite albums.....the Jessye Norman/ Kathleen Battle concert of spirituals with James Levine. (I should say here that one of her hostess gifts to me had been an eyepoppingly dreadful CD of her church choir in Lubeck...singing supposed "gospel music"...suffice it to say that they did NOT sound like the Tuskeegee Singers or the Shaw Chorale....a bunch of Germans singing African-American spirituals in English?....it was beyond AWFUL.  She never sufficiently explained why anyone had thought this would be a good idea.).
 
In any case, she particularly loved Norman's singing "You can Tell the World" (I love it, also). I never play it, these days, without happily remembering Elisabet:  go to (this is a do-not-miss, live performance):
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N0NhbkmRmg
 
---David.  7 August, 2013.