Twist it again, Nana

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Staring at the shiny orb filled with snowmen sporting colorful hats and scarves and painted on smiles Ayda exclaimed, “Nana, make the music play again!”  She sat there balancing on her knees, fascinated by We Wish You a Merry Christmas accompanied by the make believe snow settling down around the frozen friends.

I handed her another one, and with a few quick twists, we heard the strains of Silent Night as glittering snow fell upon the scene of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. I admonished her to be very gentle with this one, as it is Nana’s favorite.

As she flittered from one decoration to another, I thought about the beautiful snow globes and how they present a moment in time so beautifully. Thoughtfully, I began to imagine the really special moments of my life, captured as a scene in a snow globe. Pictures of memories flooded my mind as I began to take a stroll down memory lane.

But wait! This wasn’t the time to get caught up in the past; I needed to enjoy the right now with this precious angel beside me. Then, lo and behold, I visualized a scene with a little girl sitting up on her knees holding a snow globe, looking up lovingly at her Nana with her brown eyes sparkling with the joy of Christmas.

Dreading Saturdays

My first and last recital

My first and last recital

Dreading Saturdays

It was 1975 and I was a mere 10 years old, so forgive me that I don’t recall all of the details.  What I do remember is that after a conversation between my mother and grandmother, followed by whole-hearted agreement by my dad, it was settled.  I was to begin piano lessons.

I was blessed with a family that showered me with praise and always had high expectations for my success, so I just assumed I would learn all my favorite songs quickly and figured I could count on even more of their attention which I coveted.    Undoubtedly, my grandmother believed I could give even Mozart a run for his money.  I can just hear her saying, “she’s a natural” and “listen to her play, she is gifted”.  My grandmother, like many others, thought her grandchildren were the cutest, brightest most wonderful grandchildren ever born.

My lessons would be given by an elderly lady we shall call Mrs. W. who had taught many others in the community, including my uncle.  I didn’t know much about her, but the adults in my family lavished praise on her teaching ability.

As with any “first”, I was both excited and a little nervous as my mother and I pulled up to the Community church where my lessons would be held.  We entered using the back entrance and were greeted by Mrs. W.  My first impression was that she was old and her perfume made my nose stuffy.

She looked different than my grandmothers as neither of them wore makeup and one never wore jewelry at all.  Mrs. W. had carefully applied pink lipstick and I could see the powder dusted on her face.  She had lots of brightly colored costume jewelry, which I would have loved to have tried on, but would never have thought of asking, not even after I knew her well.

My mother never stayed in the room with us for lessons.  I don’t know if she ran errands or waited in the car, but I know she was always there when I was finished.

The first few lessons were tedious and had more to do with learning to read music than actually playing the piano.  I remember drawing the notes on pre-printed pages.  When I had a basic understanding, she let me begin to play.

After a while, the lessons were devoted to playing whatever Mrs. W. assigned.  This is when I began to find her teaching tactics somewhat nerve-wracking.  If I missed a note, she would rap my knuckles with a ruler.  She was also a stickler about hand placement and countless times I had my hands pressed down firmly, a little too firmly, onto the correct keys.  I don’t want to give the suggestion that I thought her cruel.  She was just very strict and stern and wanted my completed undivided attention to detail.

I complained to my parents about Mrs. W’s method for correction but my whining didn’t garner much sympathy .  My dad just said I needed to spend more time practicing.

This piano lesson idea was losing its appeal rather quickly.  I didn’t want to give up play time or my beloved reading time for more practice.  I didn’t enjoy it like everyone thought I should.  I was also tired of having my Saturdays interrupted.

I pouted, pleaded and begged to quit, to no avail.  Saturday mornings probably became just as tedious for my mom as I faked illness, and made other excuses to get out of going.  When those plans failed, I moped around, with a long face, acting as though they were sending me off to some horrible fate.

My dad finally said if I would do my best and give it a fair shot, that if I still hated it after my first recital, I could quit.  Ahh, a glimmer of hope.  Now I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I was giddy the night of the recital, mostly because it would be my final one, but also because I was prepared and felt I would do well.  I did my best and I could tell by their faces that my parents were very proud of me.  Mrs. W. told them that I had potential, which served to encourage them in their wishes that I continue playing.

However, a promise is a promise and my dad kept his.  I remember him pleading with me not to quit.  My dad isn’t very talkative, but he gave it his best.  After my decision was made, I felt relieved, yet sad for my dad.  I can still remember that so clearly.  I hated piano lessons more than I cared about his wishes.  It took some of the joy from my release from captivity.

In retrospect, I made a silly, selfish choice; one that I have regretted many times.  As I think back on those days, I know it was a sacrifice for them to spend money on lessons, especially when I gave up so easily.  I am surprised that they allowed me to quit.  After all, what does a 10 year old know?

It always amazes me how clearly I remember the times when I made the wrong decisions, especially when, in doing so, I hurt others.  I guess that is a good thing, because if we forgot all the bad, we would just continue to repeat it.  I think memories like this one caused me to look back and fully appreciate the opportunities I was given and the love that motivated them and I am thankful.

Rollin’ on back to Funky town

Paul Bunyan Land/This Old Farm Brainerd, Minnesota

I could smell the leather and feel the wheels beneath my feet as I looked at the picture my aunt posted the other day.  It portrayed several rows of roller skates, all lined up ready for rental; the old brown ones with orange wheels.

It took me back to a time in my life when I was precariously perched at the beginning of my teenage years, ready to dive in and begin the years that often felt like a roller coaster as my body and mind sped towards adulthood.

Often during this time of my life, my sister and I would pack up an overnight bag and head to my aunt’s house on Friday after school to begin a weekend of fun with our young, beautiful, hip aunt and her two daughters.  Selfishly, I was thankful that my uncle spent a lot of time hunting.  Therefore many times we had them all to ourselves.  The weekend was usually spent at the movies, beach, mall and my favorite; the skating rink.

We would make a big deal out of getting ready to “go out” Friday night.  I’m not sure if my aunt knew this or if this post will give me away, but I used to “borrow” from her makeup and there was a drawer which housed a particular hand cream that I know we weren’t supposed to use.  I think it was called “pretty feet and hands”.  It was an amazing thing to me at the time; it claimed to remove all the dead skin cells and when you applied and rubbed hands together, you did indeed get balls of something that resembled dead skin, so maybe it was.  I just know I used way too much of it and always felt guilty about it.  Obviously not bad enough to tell on myself or stop, but in my defense I was young and the forbidden was attractive.

After we primped and studied ourselves in the mirror, we were off to Skate land.  We went so often that we all had our own skates so we got in and were ready to roll pretty quickly! We raced, slow skated, ate soft pretzels with mustard and flirted (well, maybe I was the only one who did that).  We usually stayed until closing and I don’t ever remember wanting to leave.

The highlight of the afternoon or night session for me was always the “couples skate” (provided someone asked me to skate), but I loved the entire experience.  I remember feeling cool as I skated backwards to “Funky town” or “Le Freak” in my black “hockey boots”, or holding hands as I circled the rink with someone to “Reunited”, or speed skating to “Another One Bites the Dust”.

Ahh, such wonderful memories and I had the plus of always having my cool aunt right there for any advice regarding hair, makeup and boys.

We would go home, tired but happy and snack on Entenmann’s donuts; the kind with the crumbly stuff on top, with nary a thought about our waistlines.  We laughed and talked and made our plans for the next day, then drug out extra blankets and pillows so we girls could all sleep on the living room floor together.

My sister had the bright idea the other day to go skating.  I told her I didn’t think I should risk the broken bones after all these years.  Besides, the rentals are always wobbly; I know this because I tried them a few times after my skating phase had passed and I sold mine.

Now, I’m wondering if I’m just afraid it wouldn’t be the same; or if maybe I like those memories as they are and would rather keep them tucked away unchanged and unbeaten by new skating memories.

If your life was a parade

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If your life was a parade, what banner would you wave?

Would you hold it really high, so all could see as you passed by?

Or would you hide yourself behind, so that no one knew your mind?

Would you lead from the first row or would you follow those you know?

Would you lag behind feeling numb, or would you march to your own drum?

What kind of music would you play?  Joyful?  Bluesy?  A mixed array?

As you passed the people along the way, would you really see them or just look away?

Marching on, towards the end, are you pleased with what awaits, my friend?

By: Lisa

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