Reflections on Insanity, Opus 2

Victory is mine!
Not yet Mission Accomplished
But well on our way…
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It was only a few short months ago when I shared a disastrous family outing, when in a fit of “culture” I made my kids come with me to the Lollipops Concert by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Not a single thing went right, and I lamented that I had purchased a subscription to the series.

The second performance was yesterday.

I decided to prime the pump by telling the kids earlier in the week of our plans.

“Do you know where the ballroom is this time?” asked my 10-year-old daughter, head cocked, eyebrows raised. Last time it was my fault we missed all the kids activities, located in the ballroom, which set up the domino effect of tears, pouting and misery for the morning.

Don’t you dare cop that teenage attitude with me little miss I-just-turned-10-and-got-my-ears-pierced…

“Yes, sweetie. I know where to go this time.” I smiled, but it was that ‘…and your little dog too’ kind of witch smile.

Then I approached my 6-year-old boy. He struggled to remember the event from the last time. Finally, he said “Was that where we sang “Old McMaestro Had a Farm?”

“Yes! That’s it!”

“I LOVED that, I’m so excited!” he blurted.

Why you lying sack of sh…

“I’m so glad you are looking forward to it. The theme this time is space. I think it will be really cool.” You could still hear the echo from my jaw hitting the floor as I left the room. You gotta love the revisionist history skills of children.

Approaching the big event, I stacked the deck a little in my favor. My daughter had a friend staying the night before, and I got another ticket so she could come with us. That way, my girl had someone other than me to pout to, and my son would get more of my undivided attention. It was a good plan, a solid plan. Until…

It snowed. Several inches. And in Cincinnati, a few inches of snow is like 10 feet in Buffalo. People can’t drive, the city seems to lose the keys to all but one plow and it is inexplicably out of salt. What seemed like “plenty of time to get there” became a long, slow commute, plagued by people with 4WD who refused to test their vehicle’s limits. Almost from the moment we got in the car, I started re-setting expectations.

“This snow is slowing us down a lot. I’m a little worried we won’t make it there with a lot of extra time to do the kids’ activities…”

Grumble, grumble was the reply…

And then for some reason, the last concert we attended came up… I think AP was telling her friend how I messed things up. So Frank and I recounted what a horrible experience it was – one of our family’s worst — laughing about what all went wrong, but with that little laugh-flutter that means you aren’t entirely amused. It was all done in jest… but the kids got quiet for a minute… I wondered if they were recalling how they acted, perhaps feeling some remorse, pre-considering how they might behave today.

As we pulled in the parking garage at Music Hall, with very little time to spare before we needed to find our seats, the second obstacle presented itself. “I don’t have my wallet,” Frank said. “My ticket was in there.” The plan had been for him to meet us there because he had an early morning errand to run, but the timing all worked out and he came with us. But somewhere in there, he misplaced his wallet.

We are never going to make it to the kids’ activities… I felt like Odysseus.

And.. we didn’t make it to the kids activities. As I collected a new copy of the missing ticket, Frank dashed to the ballroom only to find out they stopped doing the kids’ stuff at 10:15.  Freakin, fracking, gal-darn it, not again. But full marks for the kids… they rebounded this time much better. I’m sure it wasn’t the brownies I purchased for each of them with the last $3 to my name.

Thus the concert began (“much better seats this time, mom”) and we settled into the quiet yet unsettled murmur that is a classical musical concert aimed at children.  The music was great. I once again proved I am the dorkiest mom out there, crying at the wonderful music — Strauss’s ode that blesses 2001 A Space Odyssey; forty kids playing a 10 minute, multi-tempo’d version of Twinkle Twinkle on violins;  John William’s Star Wars theme which never fails to take me back to when I was 9 and thought that movie was the best thing I had ever seen. They showed images of the moon landing, footage of Jupiter enhanced by Mozart (wow!) and what the rovers were up to on Mars.  Everyone on stage was having fun.

So was I — I had a great time. The kids didn’t cry or pout much at all, so I’m going out on a limb here and saying they had a good enough time.  I’m not looking for mother of the year. But I do hope that when I talk about the third and final concert in a few months, my boy will recall how mesmerized he was with the videos of the moon and AP will ask if she can bring a friend again.  Success comes in small moments. 

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Reflections on Insanity

I understand why
Some animals eat their young.
But it’s too late now…
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I took part in something extraordinary yesterday. A room full of masochists. I was one of them. Viewed from the outside we surely looked insane. From the inside, well, the view was about the same.

Where was I? A Cincinnati Pops Concert for Children – Barnyard Serenade.

What in the ***k was I thinking? What were the other parents thinking? What made us think that our kids even remotely wanted to attend the concert… I’ll tell you what: delusion. I can personally attest to thinking the following: Wow, my kids like music. They like kid-themed events. They know I like classical music… And Music Hall is a cool, old building. Plus, and this is important, they will “get something out of it” and likely someday become symphony loving patrons who disdain popular music, have 20 more IQ points than their friends, and will be able to describe why a tambourine is both a membranophone and an idiophone.  So, all those things add together to equal complete and total insanity on my part.

It started well enough. They did indeed think the building was cool. But it pretty much went to shit from there. I mistakenly thought the kids activities were in the wrong place, so we only got to look at a few instruments; no crafts or kids’ stuff like I promised. This caused my son to fall to the floor crying.  We made our way to our seats, which I thought were really good. My daughter, however, thought they were the worst in the house and began what had to be the longest sustained pout in her nearly 10 years. I tried to engage them — look there, the harp! The piano! Aren’t the kettle drums cool? Nuthin’.  Once the music started, my son asked me every 5 minutes or so “Is that the last thing?”  At one point, my daughter managed to start a good cry, silently weeping while Haydn’s Chicken Symphony was playing. She totally ignored me when I tried to point out how the violins sounded like chickens and the flutes like little chicks.

It was at this point, at a point of total desperation and shame at what a horrible parent I really was, I started to listen to what was happening around me. And I noticed that although in the audience participation parts there seemed to be interest from a lot of kids, between shouting out farm animals pretty much every kid there hated their parents for making them come.  I’m fairly sure that by the end, the young boy behind me was duck taped to his dad. The two kids in front of me engaged in a silent but wicked tickle fight before their mom nearly came of our her skin to get them to stop.  When the Old McMaestro bit happened toward the end, it really was only adults doing the sing along… the kids had all but departed the building.

The only shimmer of hope I kept alive at this point was that the concert was mercilessly short – less than an hour. And surely my children’s joy at the end’s arrival would bring them out of their uber-negative state. How very wrong I was. Once my son realized that we weren’t now going to try to find the kids area, he began to wail. And pump his fists and shake his little body.   I was actually proud of him — I am perfectly ok if he gets mad, he just has to behave appropriately (i.e. don’t hit anyone). His outburst was completely reflective of his state and involved only himself. Well, himself and 1500 other departing parents whose own children had morphed into grateful, well-behaved angels now chattering excitedly about what they had just witnessed.  I could see their IQ points ticking up as we walked to the parking lot. I could feel the other parents’ eyes on me, judging…

During the walk to the car I resolved to be more mature than my kids in my reaction. I really wanted to grab them by the shoulders, tell them how disappointed I was at the immaturity of their behavior and that their lack of gratitude was going to cost them dearly.  The problem was that in each version I dreamed up, I looked more and more like a deranged lunatic. There was no way to claw them back to happy, no way they would ever change their mind about the last hour of their lives.

So I put them in the car and stood outside of it for a good 10 minutes. Frank joined me. We talked about how to deal with this and decided we would pursue the “We are the grown ups here and should probably act like it” route. (I did agree to use this, at the right time, as a teaching moment with our nearly 10-year-old daughter… she is old enough to know how to behave or at least fake it…) Several meditative minutes later, we got into the car, informed them we were going to Costco (“this is not open to input,” Frank smartly added) and proceeded to try to drive faster than our moods could follow us.

I am happy to announce that my decent, well-behaved and generally fun children returned shortly after we plied them with hot dogs and pizza at Costco. Shopping was a joy. They were funny. They helped find things and load the cart. They acted like hyenas the exact right amount given then ages. Our family was reborn.

So what to do now… there are two more concerts in the series, and the tickets are already purchased. I have 80% decided we will go again… I will NOT be defeated by two who cannot yet master the can opener. But I sure as hell will figure out where the kids activities are taking place and get there in time to enjoy them. The rest is a total crap shoot…

I Need $25,000…

Music makes me sing
on the inside… Classical
makes me dance out loud.
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I guess this post should be titled “I want $25,000″. For what I want it for surely can’t fall into the “need” category. One of my secret desires (at least one I haven’t revealed in these pages) is I want to conduct an orchestra someday. Not just a few strings and wind instruments… I want the whole kit-and-kaboodle-every-instrument-on-stage set up. And the music I want to conduct is Tchaikovsky’s March  Slav.

I love classical music, and this piece seems to use every instrument. There is a gong, I swear, in the more climactic parts. And you can almost hear the soldiers march and the peasants bemoan the fallen in the melody. But the reason I really want to conduct is I want to look like this:

Photo

Joshua Bell with William Eddins conducting at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Photo from the CSO. Click for the link.

If I were a conductor, I’d do it like William Eddins. You could tell he really liked the music.  If jazz needed a conductor, it would pick him. He danced, bounced, nearly ran into Joshua Bell a few times (at least it seemed so from where I sat). In general, he appears to have a great time. There was a priceless moment at the end of one piece by Ravel that showcased his personality. A portion of the audience guessed wrong on the ending and clapped prematurely between movements (a mistake I’ve made many times, but not this time). So when the orchestra at last came to a close, the entire audience sat there quietly for a good 5 seconds, no one wanting to repeat the faux pas and clap incorrectly. Finally, Mr. Eddins looked over his right shoulder, eyebrows raise, as if to say “would you clap already… we’re actually done this time.”  The audience laughed out loud and commenced the applause. It was hysterical. He’s cool.

Another reason I want to conduct March Slav is it kicks ass. The aforementioned Ravel piece was nicknamed the Insomniacs Suite by Frank. It was a real dozer… although I’m sure to someone who understood it musically, it was delightful. That person was not me.  March Slav is quiet and loud, rousing and touching… and the final 2 minutes is crescendo after crescendo of every instrument in the house.  Hard to sleep through that one. And if my air-conducting is any indication, I would be highly entertaining, much like Mr. Eddins, leading most people to stay awake.

And the last reason I want to conduct is I want to make the “I-have-you-by-the-balls” conductors’ gesture without getting in trouble. See Bugs Bunny below.

Mr. Eddins did this Friday night with flair and gusto, although he went for the “low-ball gesture” versus the “high-ball gesture” favored by Bugs. It just looks so powerful when done with a tensed, muscle-y shake and furrowed brow.  I want to be cool like that.

Which brings me to my want of $25,000. I have family members who are classical violinists and have played with orchestras before. When I asked how I might conduct an orchestra some day, they replied all I would need is a lot of money, put forward as a donation to the local orchestra. I’ve decided $25,000 should suffice; I wouldn’t make the orchestra dress up, so perhaps they’d work for cheaper wages.  And I think the possibility of a complete and total conducting-train-wreck would bring out a few people who might not normally attend, thus increasing the reach of the  Symphony who agreed to such a stunt. It really would be a win-win for all.

So why haven’t I started pursuing my dream, which I’ve had for many years now?  Other than the usual twin excuses of not enough time/too much to do, it seems to me  that in a world full of hunger and need, my desire somehow feels ego-driven and frivolous. So I’m going to wait.  But I’m intent to make this happen in my lifetime – mark my words, someday Mr. Eddins will agree to train me and I’ll step to the podium, baton in hand, and bring the crowd to its feet by the end.  Anything with a gong is bound to do that whether I screw up or not.

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