I keep the change that I periodically empty from my purse in a square glass dish near my desk. I’m sure there are better things to do with my money, and it’s not always convenient to get to on the sill behind my computer. I still do it, though, because every time I drop coins in the dish, I see my father.
My dad was a hard working man who put in long hours in a tool and die shop an hour away from home in order to provide a house that was probably more than he could afford for his family. Sometimes when he came through the door he wouldn’t even speak to us, but I knew he was home from the sound of his change hitting the dish in the junk drawer. He would empty his pockets a few steps away from the garage, releasing his day as he went. Some days it took longer before he spoke to us, but mostly by the time his change and keys and wallet were in the drawer, he was with us again, and work was left behind.
Back then, that was just the shape of the day. Now, I understand a little more of what he was doing; divesting his body as soon as he could of the things he had to have in the outside world. He didn’t need money or identification or keys in his workshop or at his dinner table. He didn’t need to answer to anybody, or punch a time clock. He was home.
The dish was the first thing I salvaged of my dad’s things when my mother moved into an apartment. It’s not good crystal or an interesting shape, or anything more than a storage vessel. It’s thick, sturdy, everyday glass. And every time, even now, the sound of coins dropping into the dish makes me see him standing at the drawer, head bent, making his way back to us.
I never thanked him for what he did, and he didn’t expect me to. I thank him now with each penny.
The one thing that has been certain to keep me playing at least once a year has been a standing job for our brass quintet in a beautiful church for Easter. We have been playing there for almost twenty years, though there have been some years I missed for various reasons such as having a newborn. Of course, that means that Easter morning for my children has never been storybook. The Easter Bunny leaves his loot, but I hardly ever get to have a traditional morning with them. That has been left to their grandparents, mostly, since when the girls were little my in-laws would arrive the night before and be there when my daughters woke up, long after we had left for the sunrise service.
Am I cheating the kids, and myself, out of the tradition of Easter morning discoveries and egg hunts and family coming over? Sometimes I have felt that way but, looking at it dispassionately, some years this gig was the only thing that kept me playing. Life was so overwhelming through the baby and toddler era that only the thought of the extra money to do something with encouraged me to get my horn out and find enough endurance for three services. This year, I am coming at it from a different place since I am in the best musical shape I have been in a long time. This is not the only job I will be playing, but it will be a benchmark that will help me measure how far I have come.
My family does have an Easter morning tradition, it just doesn’t always include me. As long as I can play I’m okay with that.
My morning got flip-flopped and now I’m not even sure what day it is. I hadn’t realized how important the actual, precise morning routine was to the rest of my day, but an unexpected change has thrown me for a loop. Sounds pathetic, but there it is.
Girl #2 had to go to school thirty-five minutes earlier this morning to complete some pre-testing rigmarole. Everybody else remembered and had it planned, but I got home late last night and no one mentioned it to me. This morning, I woke to a partially awake and moving house when it’s usually a still, slumbering one. I guess that made me feel like I was behind and late, so I rushed around to get everything done before she left. Then the other two had to go at the regular time, so I felt like we should leave for the bus 20 minutes early. I actually had time to stop, pour a cup of coffee, and stand still for a minute. The whole thing was topsy-turvy.
I’m still feeling like a horse after a race, hours later. Maybe it’s what I needed. A little shake-up is envigorating, and things might fall back to place in a new and more interesting pattern. That could be too much to ask for a little routine change, but I’m going to run with it…
Just when I think I’m making some progress, some forward motion, I find myself right back not far from where I started. It’s a three steps forward, two steps back feeling, and I am not sure how to get where I want to go. I suppose that if the circle is large enough, I don’t notice I’m heading back to where I came from.
Life has become a series of restarts. I’m not sure I can do that too many more times. Regrowth, repurposing, renew, re-this, re-that… Is it just that I need to get back to things I know or do I need to move in a new direction? My rededication to music is going well but slowly, my rediscovery of myself goes apace, yet sometimes I still feel like I am not going anywhere.
Maybe I’m meant not to stray far from what I am already… or perhaps I need a new compass.
Sometimes a circle feels like a direction
Up and down, still lookin’ for perfection
There’s a lot goin’ on but it all adds up to nothing
Sometimes a circle feels like a direction
“Sometimes A Circle” – Louise Goffin
As I sit looking at my music, I am again struck with how much patience it takes to be good at something. In music, I don’t get to learn something just once and move on, I need to relearn it every day. There are exercises and etudes that, though I can play them well, still need to be experienced and gone through to make me a better player. A musician’s warm up can be quite tedious, as it repeats daily the basic building blocks needed to get stronger and better. The better I get, the more extensive the warm up is, which brings me back to the tedious part. It doesn’t seem to matter what the discipline is, it just matters what level you want to take it to.
Patience is required in many other venues as well. As a mother I need tons, and often find myself lacking. I barely made it through the years of waiting for milestones; the first steps, each first tooth, first word, first day of kindergarten. Then come the years of “but, why?” questions, then waiting for them to come home from dates, not to mention waiting for them to do something you asked them to. Over the years, my reserve of patience has grown. Practice improves my capacity to wait and endure.
I’m learning to be patient with myself, too. I try not to beat myself up for making mistakes or jumping to conclusions or even for being impatient with my children when I should have the patience of Job. If I stick with it, I will succeed – hopefully before they grow up completely.
It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting. ~ Elizabeth Taylor
People who keep journals have life twice. ~ Jessamyn West
Perhaps it’s rather narcissistic, but I occasionally find myself re-reading my old posts. They seem to act as a reminder; whether I am trying to accomplish something or create something new, the old helps in the shaping. Other times, it’s just a calming influence, a proof that there is some order to my world.
There is a value to reliving both my good times and my mistakes. Not only does it remind me not to make the same missteps or encourage me to try again, it creates a sense of history and a narrative that can be shared. In an online version of a journal my life becomes a little more transparent, and I find myself more accountable for the things I plan. If I say I will do something, perhaps someone will ask me about it later, to see how I am doing. What will my answer be if I don’t follow through with what I say I will?
We have lost the tradition of telling life stories in this world of sound bites and 18 minute long half-hour television programs. We rarely are storytellers ourselves. Instead, we read or watch. The oral tradition of times past has moved into a digital age, making this record of what I do and think an outgrowth of that story-telling urge.
There are many things I wish I could ask my parents about. Times when I was small, things that I vaguely remember happening or stories I only remember part of. The “Horace, My Pet Mountain Lion” ramble that my mother told hundreds of times and hundreds of ways, in a humorous, affected “lithp”. The time I let the cat lick one side of a cherry sucker while I licked the other. What my brothers liked to do and say. Had my mom or dad kept a journal or a written account of some of the mundane, day-to-day happenings, I think I’d read it with tenderness and thanks now that I don’t have them as touchstones.
The memories I have set down in these posts let me relive my personal experiences. Perhaps later they will let my girls relive a few things from their own stories.
I suppose every plan has some down time and every schedule has those pockets of inactivity interspersed with the times that everything happens at once, but this week turned out to be an empty, waiting one. I’ve had a few disappointments crop up, so some things are on hold or out altogether. For the girls it’s finals week in the trimester at school, so classes are wrapping up and closing down. Every single member of the family performed in a concert last week, and we have not yet begun the next cycle to get ready for coming concerts. It just happened that I had no rehearsals at all this week, after having to work things around to make them all happen in the weeks previous. One group I am not going to be able to participate in because the concert falls on the same day as my oldest daughter’s graduation ceremony, and the other two were canceled for out-of-town members or leaders. It wasn’t normal for this week to be idle.
Consequently, I feel in suspended animation. Waiting for the new, final trimester to begin, beginning to anticipate all of the looming preparations for graduation and the end of school, knowing that a dizzying pace will soon be upon us in the race to the last day as it always is. You would think it would be a welcome break; a rest. But I have been uneasy all week, not practicing like I should, not focused enough to write, not using the time to gear up and get ready for what is to come, just… waiting.
The seasons are turning, the clock changed, new things are coming. I want out of the cotton wool, out of the box.