Connections

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Lola is 12-years old now, and that’s a difficult time in the life of every young girl.  Even Lola, who is amazingly intelligent and independent, is going through that awkward middle school stage of life.  She’s tall and thin, and her body has quickly become something that to her must seem quite unfamiliar.  I have spent the past couple of years equally worrying about how she is adjusting to a new school environment and being impressed with her “old soul” philosophical attitude about most of the challenges she has encountered.

I encouraged Lola to sign up for band this school year.  Unfortunately, she is not able to take both band and choir in this school district, and last year she opted for choir.  While she enjoyed it, I could see that musically, she wasn’t learning much.  She agreed to take band this year, but she was apprehensive about being a year behind the rest of the kids in her class.  I promised her that she would quickly catch up, and she has.

Lola met with her band teacher at the end of last school year to select an instrument.  Anyone who knows our family, or reads my blog, knows that music is a large part of our lives.  I was thrilled to see Lola testing instruments.  Though she asked me repeatedly to advise her on a choice, I kept my mouth shut.  This had to be her decision.  Learning an instrument can become one of the most rewarding things in life, but only if that is a personal choice.  It wasn’t a matter of expense as we own several trumpets, a trombone, two saxophones, three clarinets, and a drum set.  Even if she had selected an instrument that we didn’t own, I would have gladly added to our collection.  She chose the trumpet.  The other kids had all been waiting to hear what Lola chose, each wishing she would pick their instrument of choice. Her big brother Luke, the trumpet player, was thrilled.

If we still lived back home, I would have known any number of people who could teach Lola the trumpet, but we’re not back home.  We’re here, and I didn’t have a clue where to take Lola for lessons.  I looked online for the music center nearest our home and set up an appointment for a lesson.  Lola’s first lesson was several months ago, and I feel incredibly blessed that my random selection set in motion a wonderful chain of events.

Lola is shy, so shy that on the night of her first lesson she begged me not to make her go.  She had a tummy ache from worry, but I promised her that I would stay with her through the entire lesson.  Lola and I waited together for her teacher in the tiny studio lesson room.  When he opened the door, I was stunned.  He was a tiny man well over 70 years old, but his presence filled the room.  His hair was snow white, and his eyes sparkled.  I stared at him in amazement.  He reminded me of the man who introduced me to jazz, Bob DuBois, a trumpet player.  Bob died about a year ago, but the impact he had on so many jazz musician carries on.

Lola’s teacher’s name is Mike.  He has played with some of the greatest names in jazz.  He and I spent part of her first lesson talking about common likes and dislikes while Lola quickly relaxed.  Eventually, Mike turned his attention to Lola, and the lesson began.  Their connection was almost instantaneous.  They made each other smile, and I could see that she wanted learn as much as he wanted to teach.  He offered to take Lola’s trumpet home with him and give it a good cleaning and tune-up.  The next day, Lola and I went to his home, near our own, and her trumpet was shining like new.

That first lesson was months ago, and their friendship has blossomed.  Twice each week, 12-year-old Lola and 70-something Mike, spend an hour together.  Without fail, Lola comes away from each lesson with a smile on her face.  Her confidence in all areas of life has soared.  T and I secretly call Mike Lola’s trumpet therapist, because the change in our daughter has been so positive and dramatic.

Frequently, Mike sends me texts telling me how wonderful Lola is doing, how quickly she is learning.  Just tonight, Mike sent me this text.  “Pam, Lola is doing remarkable work.  I’m not sure if you have heard her lately, but her sound is superb and she is really really getting it.  She is easily my best student.”

Yes, I’m proud that Lola is a good student on the trumpet, but I am incredibly amazed to witness the special relationship that has developed between a young girl and an old trumpet player.  It is readily apparent that they both “needed” this relationship in their lives.  The rapport they have is heartwarming to witness.  I talked to Lola about it tonight, about just how special it is that she and Mike have found each other and this unique connection.  She said, “He’s one of my best friends.”  Wow!  I love this kind of thing.  When people step outside of their comfort zones, whether that be school, work, neighborhood, or even age group, all kinds of interesting people await.  Once again as a parent, I learn another lesson from my child.

The Commander

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This morning, I received an email from my friend Tom.  Tom is a former fellow band member from back home.  T and I have stayed in touch (somewhat) with Tom and his wife.  He was emailing to tell me that our former bass player, Bob, had recently died.  While that was sad, it wasn’t surprising news.  Bob was well into his eighties, and I had known that his health had been failing.  What surprised me most was that Tom asked me to call him as soon as I had a chance to talk.  I replied that I would give him a call when I headed out for lunch.

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Sylvia’s Mother

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ktel

I’ve been a little obsessed with the song, Sylvia’s Mother performed by Dr. Hook for the past few days.  I have a long history with Sylvia and her mother.  The song was a track on one of the first albums I ever owned.  Yes, I had it on vinyl.  It was on my first album, K-tel’s Believe in Music – 22 Original Hits.  I had a little portable record player, and I listened to that album over and over.  Sylvia’s Mother was one of my favorite songs on the album.  I could practically feel the singer’s pain as he begged Sylvia’s mom to allow him to speak to her daughter.  I wished with all my heart that Mrs. Avery would put Sylvia on the phone.  I could imagine the caller plugging dimes into the payphone, which I was sure had to be located in a rainy, bustling place while he implored her for the chance to say goodbye.  He just wanted to say goodbye, but Mrs. Avery and the nagging operator didn’t care.  As a little girl, I felt so bad for him.  Gosh, he must have really loved Sylvia.  I wondered if I would ever break a man’s heart by marrying a fella down Galveston way.  I hoped so! Continue Reading »

The Old Piano

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lola piano

My grandparents gave me a piano over 40 years ago. I was about 5 years old.  I had shown an interest in playing any and every keyboard that was near me.  If I was in a church, I found eventually found my way to the piano.  I loved to play on my aunt’s old pump organ.  The neighbor girls were teaching me how to play on the piano in their dining room.  I’ll never forget the day Grandma and Grandpa followed the truck carrying my piano to our house.  Through eight houses or apartments, that old piano has been a part of my life.  I have pictures of me, my grandma, and my great-grandma sitting together on the bench.  There is another picture of my sweet dog, Susie, sitting next to 8-year-old me while I practiced my lesson.  My parents and I posed on the bench one year for our Christmas card photo. My long gone pets,  Abe, Hank, Pete, Puffy, and Violet all sat by my side as I played.  Boo and Pepper sit on the same bench now. Continue Reading »

Listening For Calm

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beethoven_concerto_5

There was a time when I saw music in my head.  As I fell asleep at night, I would listen to my iPod.  I had a special “Sleeping Playlist” that I listened to each night.  I became so familiar with the songs that I could see the music as I listened.  Notes would dance across my closed eyes as I fell asleep.  Their gentle movement up and down the staff lulled me to sleep.  I drifted off as I became part of the music.  My mind was clear, troubling thoughts rarely intruded to interrupt my slumber.  It was just me and the music.  I was at peace with myself and the world around me.  That allowed me to appreciate the beauty and the composition of the music. Continue Reading »

August Playlists

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In 2010, I began to create a new iPod playlist each month.  I usually copy the entire list from the previous month into the next month’s list, and then I begin the process of adding new songs and deleting songs that I’m sick of hearing.  I have saved all of the lists from the past two years, and it’s been very interesting to see how the songs from each month have had a way of reflecting the events in my life at the time.  Each list tells a story.  Often though, that story isn’t revealed until months later as I look back at the songs and remember the events from that time. Continue Reading »

Boy, You Complete Me!

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“Perfect Two” is a song that plays often in my household.  I have a love/hate relationship with the song.  Musically, it’s a cute song.  It’s sweet.  I love the simplicity of an acoustic song.

My daughters are as funny as can be singing this song together, and usually quite loudly.  The BEST thing about this song is that T sings it!  He learned it word for word as a joke on the girls.  One day, it came on, and he started belting it out.  VERY out of character for T, and he got the results he wanted.  The girls stopped whatever they were doing and looked on in amazement.  “Dad!!!  How do you know this song???”  That’s a sweet memory for me, and I think of it each time I hear the song.

Now the hate part of the song.  I cringe at the lyrics.  You might ask why.  They are sweet and loving.  “You can be the peanut butter to my jelly…”  Yep, that’s pretty sweet.  It’s this line that chills me each time I hear it:  “Don’t know if I could ever be without you, cuz boy you complete me.”  Uh oh…  COMPLETE ME.  Is she missing a piece of herself without him?  An arm, a leg?  Her heart?  Would an internal organ stop functioning if “Boy” were to go away?

It’s the classic Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White/Prince Charming song.  She is not COMPLETE without her man (or boy.)  As little girls, at least in my generation, we were spoon fed this concept.  Someone will one day come along, and our lives will be complete.  I am trying so hard to make sure that my daughters understand this concept is a fairy tale.  They are already complete, capable, competent human beings all on their own.  Someday, they will fall in love, but that love will enhance their lives, not complete them.

So when “Perfect Two” comes on in our household, the first thing the girls do is wait for is their father to start singing.  The next thing, for their mother to once again launch into a discussion about Being Complete.  “Yeah, Mom.  We know…”

 

 

 

 

Stepping Stone

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Tonight was a good night, and I needed that.  Another concert on the plaza.  Two down, eight more to go.  It’s easier this year, because I have some help.  All I have to do is show up and introduce the band.  No more lugging things from my car, dumping bags of ice, and later the water from the melted ice.  Still, concert nights make for a long day at work.  Eight hours in the office and then what feels like another work day in the evening.  I’m not at my best right now, both mentally and physically, and these concert days wear me out.  Tonight was good, though.  I knew the band.  They are friends.  Back when I was a musician, I played in bands with several of them.  That seems like a lifetime ago.  It was.  I was a different person back then, but that is another story.  Right now, I am trying to concentrate on the life in front of me.

The drummer for tonight’s band is from my own little town.  I’ve known him most of my life.  I can remember being a middle school girl and watching him play.  Years later, he was my son Andrew’s drum teacher.  He is also my friend, and we share many mutual friends.  I had calls all day from people in my little town.  “What time is the concert tonight?  Can we bring a cooler?  Do we need to bring chairs?”  Even so, I was surprised to see rows of people that I knew!  I was surrounded by friends and family tonight, and that felt so good.  My worlds collided in a good way.  My work world in a city that I love and my real life world from the town where I am rooted were all gathered in one place tonight.  I danced on the plaza with childhood friends to music played by other friends.  The sun was setting over the river, and a sliver of moon shown in the sky.

Tomorrow will be another day.  Tonight’s magic spell of peace and calm is now just a memory, but it is not gone.  It is not lost on me.  It was a stepping stone on this path.  Tonight bolstered me up just when I needed it.  Good people were once again put in my path at a time when I most needed my faith in human kindness and goodness restored.

None of it was about me.  None of it had to do with me.  No one was there to see me, or because of me, or for me.  Still, the evening touched me.  Once again, I was an observer.  I watched.  I looked at people and their reactions.  It was seeing those reactions that reminded me of how it felt to be happy.  I remembered!  I saw them enjoying music, the evening, the company of their friends.  I saw them smile and laugh and dance.  Watching it all, these people from my town and my life in the place where I work, reminded me of some lost song that my soul used to sing.

My life has changed.  I am no longer the middle school girl watching the band.  I am no longer the mother listening to her child learn to play drums.  I am no longer the woman in the band.  I am no  longer the woman filled with hope who once stood and watched the snow fall twinkling like magic through the lights of the plaza almost four years ago.  I have seen things I should not have had to see.  I have lost things I should not have had to lose.   I am someone else entirely now.

We have all changed.   None of us are free from the pain and changes life throws our way.  We have all changed.  I still don’t know who I am or who I have become or will become.  Maybe the people I watched tonight know who they have become.  Maybe that is why they are happy.

As I sit here writing, I am afraid.  I am afraid of sleep and dreams and tomorrow.  What it will bring?   I don’t want to plunge back down, but I know I will.  It’s inevitable.  I know that.   Tonight was a brief intermission.  Tonight I was not alone.  I felt good and whole for a few moments.  That’s why I must dissect those moments and glean all possible knowledge from them. Tonight was a stepping stone that I must carefully place in a solid resting place on my path.

Before the curing of a strong disease, even in the instant of  repair and health, the fit is strongest.  

Evils that take leave, on their departure most of all show evil.  

~ William Shakespeare