MESSY PIANO TEACHER


A piano teacher lived next door to us in Southern California when I was a freshman in high school.  The only reason I remember her is that my grandmother told me that she was an artist, and that all artists are messy housekeepers.  She pops into my head occasionally when I clean house.  I don’t think my grandmother ever set foot in her house, but she was absolutely sure her house was a mess because when she spent so much time playing the piano she couldn’t possibly be cleaning her house.

Well, I am and always have been an artist, and the health department has never called an impromptu inspection.  My mother-in-law lived just around the corner for many years, and she never complained either.

The nicest thing about the piano teacher was her two daughters, who being 2 or 3 years older, knew the latest hairstyles as well as being able to teach me the two-step.  Now I had taken dancing lessons for most of my childhood, but this was a whole new method.  We sent for diagrams from Arthur Murray, set them on the floor and followed the colored footsteps.  It was great, but there was no one to dance with, and we never went anywhere you could practice, so we just had Arthur Murray in my bedroom.

This was the period when I discovered boys.  Oh I knew about them of course, and had even had a boyfriend in kindergarten, but this was the year someone actually came to call on me.  He didn’t really come to see me, but I just happened to be climbing the old fig tree in our alley, and this is the way he rode his bike on his way home from school.  We would just stand talk, he would scuff the dirt with his toe, and I would pick a fig now and then for him.  Not an especially hot romance.  But then a boy actually came to the front door and my mother let him in!  What do you do now? I thought.  So we made fudge.  I’ve made a ton of fudge since then, but none so nervewracking.

Occasionally I mowed the front lawn in order to catch a glimpse of the boy across the street.  He was a senior, and a football player.  His nickname was “Shifty-hips” Parton, which was a moniker to be reckoned with.  I wore glasses, and one day he spoke to me and insulted me by telling me I ‘looked intelligent’.  From then on, I tried to never wear my glasses.

And oh yes, the messy piano teacher tried to teach me to play the piano, but it was too late.  I had discovered boys.

 

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OLYMPIC DICHOTOMY


 The Olympics are a peaceful celebration of our warlike natures, ie our contradictory natures.  F. Scott Fitzgerald believed that the mark of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to sustain opposing opinions.

The athletes smile in a celebration of warmth and fellowship at the opening ceremonies, which then turns into a celebration of competitive virtues.  The opening ceremony is win-win , the rest of the games is win-lose.  The opening mimics peace, the competitions mimic warfare in a civilized manner.

The Olympics appeal to our desire for fellowship, and our desire for status.

Putting these considerations aside, the Olympics places the hopes, dreams and lifelong struggles to succeed of athletes from around the world, front and center for a short three weeks.  We meet all these fine people and marvel at their beauty and then gasp in wonder at their prowess in their chosen sport, while the media tries its best to keep us abreast of daily action across the globe.  When the competitions are over, we are filled with desire to improve our own ability to run, jump, swim, etc., or to simply stay in shape.  We are tired from all the television coverage, but we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.

In the spirit of comradeship, we wish them all well.

BARBEQUED RATTLESNAKE?


One of my grandsons is a wildlife biologist.  They say you can tell what sort of job a person is suited for when they are children.  Well, we should have known about this one when he drove off for college with fishing and hunting gear loaded into his small grey truck.  They didn’t have an ocean in the state where he aimed so there was no need for a surfboard.  But life is good anyway.

He hunted often in the hills near his home, so there should have been no surprise when his parents arrived home one afternoon to find the skin of a six foot rattler drying in the bright Southern California sunshine and firmly attached to their fence.  Since this was not part of the normal garden decor, they naturally sought the new designer.  He was found in the person of their ten year old son who was happily starting a fire in the barbeque pit preparing a rattlesnake picnic for friends.  He and a young friend had come upon this squirming monster under a discarded sheet of corrugated metal on the side of the hill, and being of curious nature and “just happening” to have brought along a homemade snare, they had captured their unwilling  prey.  After an agreeable time on the grill, they both agreed that it tasted like chicken.

 

THE POWER OF WORDS


We give great thought and read much about the harm or good we can do to children by our words.  We have the power to create good or bad memories.  And yet, the very words which did either harm or good are seldom remembered by us.  We can be either mentor or tormentor.

The particular sensibility of the child has much to do with it of course.  The ability to absorb praise and encouragement and discard critism is an important factor.  Several middle-aged men of my acquaintance have lived their lives having missed a positive relationship with their fathers.  In each case it has been the father who has fallen short in this relationship with one another, at least in  in the man’s recollection of childhood.  We spend much time speculating the reason for this, yet the feeling persists that they have not been loved by their fathers.

We have just teceived a disturbing letter from a man whom we have known since his childhood, in which he  discussed at length the failures of his own late father in his personal relationship to him.  He tells of how pleased and excited he was when Dr. Advice and I came to visit occasionally and took a real interest in both him and his brother.  I don’t even remember some of the small incidents he related, and yet they obviously meant a lot to him.  His brother, on the other hand, though harboring the same  resentment against the father, has been able to bury those feelings like water off a duck’s back.

Yes, we need to be VERY careful how we handle these tender childhood sensibilities.

LUNCH WITH THE GIRLS


I have lunch with my girlfriends every couple of months.  I guess I should properly say they are my women friends, because none of us have been girls for about 70 years.  But they were my high school girlfriends and it’s nice to fill in the lost years. Only two were my actual friends, one a bridesmaid in my wedding 65 years ago.  The others I knew of course, but we weren’t really friends.

One was interested in girl’s athletics, and my interest was contained in being a cheerleader for the boy’s sports.    Another was a serious looking girl on the honor roll, and I never quite made that either.   My great interest in education had come early and then made a detour in high school and then resumed after some time in college.   Another had no interest in befriending me so I labelled her a snob.   Another was a girl who was also in the ROTC in a competing battalion. This was the only way I ever saw her; when we were marching up and down the field in our very cool uniforms. It’s interesting to see the changes those years have brought.  When we began doing this a few years ago, I had to look at their pictures in the high school year book to recognize them.  I wonder if they did the same?

The first  luncheon we had, a woman sat at our table and I asked my bridesmaid who she was.  She said “Oh, she’s the ballet dancer”.  She has become quite comfortable in the ensuing years, and though we had seen newspaper pictures of her when she danced in the SF Ballet and the New York Ballet, I found it difficult to reconcile the two images.  I always thought she looked like a fairy princess.

I lunched with another group of women the other day and recounted the high school lunch.  Several thought it would be fun to find out what happened to old boyfriends.  One was scornful, and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to connect with people they had known so long ago.  But her husband  recently called  a man he knew as a teenager, telephoned him, and they have had many pleasant conversations.

Dr. Advice never let his friendships get dusty.  He stayed connected through all the years, until the last one passed away a year or so ago.  He is a communicator in the first rate.  It’s all about communication.  We are not meant to be lone wolves.  We need to exchange ideas, to find our place in the world.  We are constantly evolving, learning.

I’ve been so happy to meet with these high school friends often.  I’m sorry for the years we missed, because every one of them is an interesting woman with so much given and so much more to give.

 

COMPENSATION


                                                                                 “Into the Storm”  Watercolor painting by Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen

COMPENSATION

KSR

If it were not for the shadows

We should never have the sun.

If we never had the night-fall

Then day had not begun.

If we never kn ew a heart-ache

Then our soul would never sing.

If we never had a winter

We should never see the spring.

If we never knew the tempest

We should never love the calm.

If we never knew the wounding

We should never feel the balm.

If we never knew some sorrow

Then our hearts could not be gay.

There may never be tomorrow

But we always have today.