Thursday, December 07, 2006

Whereupon I Express Love

My daughter is 10. I don't know quite how it happened. Sure, I'm aware of the usual processes (time + food + rest + medical care = larger child). Still how such a simplistic formula can yield a story-writing, independent and sometimes hormonal being from a tiny little wriggling thing remains a glorious mystery to me.

She's always been beautiful. Now every parent says this, and every parent is right, no matter that the child has a unibrow, heinous teeth or a stupid expression. They are each a miracle of eyes and soft skin and animation. But since she's been a baby, my daughter has literally stopped traffic. Sales clerks crossed the floor at Bloomingdales to look at her. Sweet elderly women stopped and asked to hold her on the street. When I brought her to work on school holidays, secretaries would line up to take care of her. I didn't pimp her as a model, despite the encouragement of my mother, both because my mother is insane and because, like me, my daughter doesn't photograph all that well. There's something so charismatic about her in person, a quality that utterly disappears in pictures.

The reason I wax rhapsodic is that today was the "Holiday Concert" -- the last such concert she will participate in at the Lower School Division of her school. Like so many other parents we traipsed dutifully year after year to watch her with dozens of other little velvet-clad girls make their way through songs, percussion instruments and dances. And for the most part, it's excruciating. Saved by a ridiculous cute factor, the concerts are mind-numbing politically correct affairs, with Japanese New Year songs, Kwanzaa call and response songs, made up pop Hanukah tunes and the odd Christmas carol all tossed in. Until the 3rd grade, all the girls have the same music teacher: a sweet, slightly befuddled woman with a face like 3 week old vanilla pudding who's a devotee of Carl Orff. Which means she believes in encouraging the musician in every child (good) but also that low standards help them think they are achieving music (bad). My husband usually leans in towards me during these concerts and stage whispers: "There's some derogatory Yiddish word for this woman. I just don't know what it is."

In 4th grade, however, the girls get a real music teacher -- a woman with an advanced degree from Peabody who composes serious music and has been teaching her charges about jazz. I knew I loved her in October, when I caught my daughter singing "How High The Moon" and then talking with her friends about Cannonball Adderly.

So I looked forward, for a change, to today's concert. My heart stopped for a second, because I saw my daughter in a dress with her hair pulled back and silver snowflakes dangling from her ears, and in that moment I saw what she was going to look like at her prom 8 years from now. It took me aback as I began to think about how I need to teach her about condoms, birth control, date rape, responsibility for her own conduct right now before she goes off looking like that. In the next moment, I forgot, as she and her classmates launched into Still, Still, Still. Three-part harmonies. Followed by another 3-part round, with voice and recorder. She was so open, and sweet, and full of love for her school her voice and her friends at that moment. It was one of those parental epiphanies, where you see the past and the future and realize that enjoying today is every bit as important. I 'll teach her, for sure, what she needs to know. But maybe I won't start tonight.


Anonymous said...

Lovely, Rundeep! My own (objectively) lovely daughter will be 13 in two weeks, but my son is 18 [gasp!] now. If you take the time to really enjoy your kids, a lot of those lectures get pre-empted in the natural course of discussions anyway.

Thanks for posting this.

rundeep said...

Thanks TK! Happy Birthday to your daughter. As the stepmom of adults I knew in their teens, I can tell you that your proudest moments are yet to come. Best.

Claude Scales said...

Great post. I loved your husband's suggestion that there must be a derogatory Yiddish term for the vanilla-pudding faced music teacher. It made me think perhaps there ought to be an invent-a-derogatory-Yiddish-term contest in which you'd be given a description of an obnoxious person and asked to invent a Yiddish-sounding word, for example, meschkullucks, to describe that person.

My daughter's (she's 13 and in 7th grade) class just did an opera for which they wrote the music and libretto, made the stage set, etc. Liz wasn't one of the singers; she was assigned to write a time line for the plot (a good choice given her interest in history). They chose to make the subject Samuel de Champlain, and came up with a tragic story of a young French soldier who Champlain orders to forage for firewood, and who meets a Mohawk maiden who is spying on Champlain's camp (Champlain is allied with the Algounquins, who are about to attack the Mohawks). The next day, the young Frenchman is killed by an arrow shot by the maiden's brother , which leads to a sad chorus with a strong antiwar theme. It was much better than I expected.

rundeep said...

Thanks for stopping by Claude. Isn't it surprising the quality of the work these youngsters do? An opera sounds like a wonderful project, and well-done too! Call the After-Dinner Opera Company in Lower Manhattan and see if they'll stage it.

And I love the idea of the contest. Maybe I'll steal it and toppost it as a Friday frivolity on BOTF. With proper attribution, of course.