An audio recording from rehearsal.
The Girl has loved performing for years. She doesn’t often have an audience, but she really doesn’t need one.
On a weekend trip, she can entertain herself in the hotel room dancing about as if she were on the biggest stage in the world.
She can dance a little reel on the way from the table to retrieve a spoon for little brother’s soup as if she were part of a touring dance troupe.
A hairbrush can be a microphone and the hardwood floors throughout our house make every space a recital hall.
This weekend, though, it was a little different. It wasn’t the improvised routines that fill her week with little joys as she imagines herself on this or that stage. It wasn’t plunking away with her piano teacher. It was an auditioned role. A practiced and prepared role. And it wasn’t just her: it was almost three hundred kids across the state, all practicing with their music teacher after school, learning the same songs in big city schools and small rural schools. Students of multiple ethnicities, races, religions, and mental aptitudes with one thing in common: an ability to sing. A gift in common. A gift they are willing to share.
And in the midst of all this, like magnets to a pole, two Polish families found each other and the girls made friends instantly.
The great Gothic cathedrals of Europe were designed with their thin walls, long windows, and unbelievably high ceilings to do one thing: make parishioners look upward. When visiting one as a tourist, one finds that all the other tourists are doing just that: looking up. Wondering at the marvels of creating such seemingly impossibly structures out of stone, structures that look delicate and immortal at the same time.
I can only imagine the learning curve involved in developing such a style of architecture. How many times did buildings come crashing down because of some hitherto unforeseen flaw?
In the eighteenth century, there was a revival of Gothic architecture, and this seems somehow appropriate as that was the age of Bach, who could compose music that even when it was descending in tones sounds like it’s ascending, like his Toccata and Fugue in F-major, BWV 540.
Four years ago, I marveled at how some of these lines mirrored what I was feeling after a disappointing election. I still feel this way after the election in 2016, but for different reasons.
With an untried, inexperienced, president-elect of questionable integrity, surely these are, in many ways, America’s most uncertain hours, both for Republicans and Democrats.
The sun came up and light our backyard like it always does, but we often don’t have a chance to notice and to appreciate it. Today, we still didn’t get a chance to enjoy, to savor the light — we were in our normal Sunday morning rush to get to Mass.
When we got home after Mass and religious education (for the Boy) and choir practice (for the Girl), snacks for everyone and a newly improvised hiding place. Then lunch, with the pianist from last evening and our near-family from further up north.
Everyone wanted him to play, and he obliged. But he, seeing our trampoline, suggested we should all go down and jump.
And so we obliged.
After Mass during the school year, there are a few obligatories: a fresh pot of coffee and something sweet. Feed the soul, then feed the spirit. Something like that. Perhaps accompany it with something to read, maybe a game of chess. But eventually, it’s time for the trial and treasure, for it’s something K loves and loathes doing. Polish lessons.
The love is easy: it’s her language, her culture, that she’s sharing with her beloved daughter. The loathe comes from the frustration that sometimes accompanies it. Perhaps “loathe” is not the right word — perhaps it was just too alliterative to pass up. “It’s something that K loves and that frustrates her” doesn’t quite make it. Always searching for the right word, never able to find it, which is what makes the Polish lessons so frustrating for the Girl. Her passive vocabulary, like everyone’s, is much larger than her active vocabulary. She can understand more than she can say, like me in Polish.
E, on the other hand, has of late only a passive vocabulary for the most part. The production has ceased. However, we’re seeing that language and such is perhaps just not his strength. He can watch a cartoon about how airplanes fly and remember it long afterward. (Language, though? K was trying to teach him a Polish prayer the other evening, and he replied, “You must be kidding me! I can’t remember that!”)
In the evening, it’s time to feed the soul once again — a quiet bonfire in the backyard. The temperatures have cooled, the mosquitoes have disappeared, and we’ve entered our favorite time of the year.
We’ve been waiting all summer for this. The kitchen is mostly done, our routines have returned, the weather has cooled, and it’s time to start everything again. So what better way to end than with a song by Antoine Dufour, a Quebecois guitarist, who wrote a song for his yet-unborn son, a song about waiting, a song I’ve listened to at least a dozen times this weekend. Perhaps the most beautiful acoustic guitar song I’ve ever heard.
Last night, L and I went to see the last performance of Matilda the Musical here in Greenville. She’d read the book earlier and was eager to see the show, and K gave me tickets for us as the sweetest and perfectly thoughtful birthday present I’ve received. And so we headed out in the late afternoon and came back in the late evening completely enthralled with what we’d see and talking about what we might see next. (Junie B Jones is coming later, but I think I’ll let K take the Girl for that particular one.)
Ironically, we went on a school field trip to the same venue this morning.
Odd, the difference between taking your own daughter to a show and taking 250+ thirteen-year-olds…