Monday, July 13, 2009

The Recital

I wish I had the words to adequately describe my father. He was bigger than life and always entertaining. He had a great sense of humor and one of the sharpest wits I have ever encountered. As a former high school English teacher he had a wonderful command of the English language but more often than not talked like a sailor on leave. This was a trait that made my mother cringe whenever they were in public together. No one was ever sure just what might come bursting from my father’s lips. Another of my father’s “bad habits” according to my mother was his love of cigars. He was rarely without one dangling from his hand while a pungent trail of smoke rose to the ceiling.

Now between his cigar smoking and his uncensored vocabulary my mother would rather wrestle a snake than take my father anywhere that might result in the tarnishing of our family name. Yet, there were those rare occasions that could not be avoided like my piano recitals. Yep, here was an occasion dreaded by all for various and distinct reasons. I dreaded them because I hated to practice the piano and hated even more to play it in front of anyone. My mother dreaded the event because it meant being accompanied by my father and my father would have rather been anywhere other than sitting on a metal folding chair listening to 25 kids peck out the tune Country Gardens.

I had been taking piano lessons at Mrs. Glascock’s piano studio for about two years and at the age of eight I was ready for my first piano recital and yes, the piece I would play for my musical debut was indeed Percy Grainger’s Country Gardens. I can still remember the words, “Come let us go where soft breezes blow and the lovely country gardens grow”. I remember it so well because I must have played it for 30 minutes a day every day for a year. Thirty minutes was the minimal amount of required practice time imposed by my mother who emphatically refused to waste the $5.00 weekly lessons on an ungrateful child unwilling to practice.

Unfortunately I was billed second to last on the recital roster leaving each of us to suffer our own individual torment. I was tormented with pure fear and anxiety as I waited for my turn to play. As each student got up and performed their piano solo I counted down how many were left before the curtain fell on me. My mother’s torment came in the form of the 200 lb man squirming in the chair next to her and his torment was the fact that he had to listen to 25 children play the piano when he was only interested in one of them.

His impatience grew steadily by the minute. The more restless he became the louder were his grunts and sighs. He wiggled around so much in the metal folding chair it was making groaning sounds of its own. At one point my mother gave my dad a sharp elbow to the ribs and not so delicately told him to hush and be still. Finally she suggested he go outside and smoke a cigar but with the explicit order to be back before his only daughter was called to perform.

All this time I was getting fidgety myself. The more noise my father made the more anxious I became. One-by-one the children climbed the stage to take their place at the piano. Finally, it was my turn to play. The only person remaining was the little boy who was to follow me. He was the last remaining soloist. Just as I sat down at the big white grand piano my father came rushing through the door collapsing into his metal chair. He let out a big sigh as if to say, “Yes, finally we can get this show on the road.” Slowly I lifted my hands and brought them down to the black and white keys striking the notes only once before the contents of my stomach emptied all over the piano and my lap. My mother gasped in horror while my father loudly inquired, “Just how much are these @#%&* lessons costing me anyway?” Needless to say that was the last recital for my dad and me. The only person thrilled by my performance was the little boy who didn’t have to follow me on stage!


Arkansas Patti said...

Very funny post especially since it is all now in the past where humor likes to visit. I really didn't see that coming.

kenju said...

Oh, my Lord!! You made me remember some of my recitals - at which I was just as nervous, but luckily, I never barfed!!