Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Our Best Opus of Spring 2008

(This piece was originally written 5/4/08, but was somehow buried deep in my log of entries and never posted; please accept my apologies for the untimeliness of this posting.)

It is not uncommon for children in the South to spend a sunny spring afternoon performing at a piano recital. Two hours before showtime, children across town are taking long baths as their moms iron their Sunday best. For girls, hair is combed and tied with a bow. Not since Easter have these kids been so clean. So presentable. Before leaving home, they spend a few minutes gathering their sheet music and maybe running through each song a time or two. Everyone gathers in a church sanctuary, auditorium, meeting room or dining hall to be entertained for more than an hour as child after child takes centerstage, performs music at a variety of levels, always earning grand applause as they curtsy or bow, and camera flashes flicker across the room.

Like azalea trails and debutante balls, we cling tightly to this tradition in the South. This is 90 seconds of fame, and you don't get a do-over. For a brief minute or two, all eyes will be on your child. And this is very important because your child is, after all, an extension of you.

So what does it say about a mom whose child arrives at a piano recital appearing as if she just returned from a three-day drunk? Absolutely nothing. But it speaks volumes of her FATHER, who had taken her and her sister on an overnight camping trip, where a stomach virus spread not like wildfire, but more like an errant spark that landed dead-center on this sweet 9-year-old child.
Throughout the night, she had vomited on herself, her dad's sleeping bag and a large portion of the tent's interior. But she didn't get sick once -- it was once, twice, three times not-so-much-a-lady. By morning, she felt better, but the effects were still evident. And without access to a shower and, apparently, to a washcloth and toothbrush, she spent the morning running around the campsite and through the woods like a feral child.

She was two hours from home, and by the time they loaded the car, time had ticked down to a just a little more than two hours from showtime. Only minutes before the recital was to begin, the car whizzes into the driveway on two wheels. She staggered through the front door like she was returning from a frat party, with briar scratches on her legs, twigs in her hair and reeking of a very long night. All I could do was hose her down in the driveway, iron her dress and hope for the best. ("Hope for the best" means "yell at her father for not leaving the campsite earlier so that we could at LEAST spray her with deodorizer and run a Brillo pad through her hair.")
While she probably wouldn't have passed a health inspection or even the most basic DHR evaluation, she never looked lovelier. We couldn't do much about deep scratches or dark grass stains on her legs, but we did manage to pull out the majority of the grass from her hair en route to the recital. And honestly, a wire brush and feminine hair clip can go a long way toward correcting the damage caused by a long and fitful night.
What had only 90 minutes earlier been a PROBLEM and likely grounds for divorce was ultimately another pleasant Sunday afternoon at a piano recital. If the recital had a Best of Show award and if a panel of judges had been on hand to hear our defense, I'm certain we would have walked away with a blue ribbon and an armful of long-stemmed roses.
Go us.