What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been

My last teaching day. Retirement minus six hours. I am dressed up a little, in a tie-dye tunic top and capris, appropriate for a former sixties hippie-wannabe. Music teachers working from a home studio can wear whatever they want, a perk of the job. All “my kids” will continue in the fall with one of my three successors, who, long ago, began as students of mine, two and five and six year old. They are now grown into poised, confident, lovely cello teachers themselves. So, today is not exactly sad, but it is truly bittersweet.

Today’s first student, seven years old, who has been known to actually writhe, eel-like, on the studio floor just because, is neither calm nor particularly mature. A naughty, silly, perpetual motion machine- boys come in several flavours-he is secretly my favourite kind of boy student. He plays his cello with enthusiasm and joy. Recently at his family’s dinner table, he observed that ‘today is the worst day ever because my cello teacher is retiring’ Then he burst out sobbing and didn’t finish his dinner. This nearly brings me to my knees when his Mom tells me…

Today, though, he has come to some sort of terms. He has left his bow at home. We have a great time selecting a lender from my graveyard of nearly dead and homeless extra bows-he doesn’t want the black haired one- and have a stellar lesson. I remind him to leave the bow, which he is fooling around with, here. We high five each other. I suggest a hug, but no, he solemnly shakes hands, a first, and out he hustles, all business-like, to the car. On to the next thing, apparently, though his Mom cries and we hug good-bye. I find myself, on this chilly day, dripping with sweat. This is my canary-in-the-mine response to stress. My subconscious must know something is up……

The very last lesson starts. I will be retired in 55 minutes. This student, with me from age 5, turns 13 in less than two months. The “cello dad” takes our picture. We mug a bit for the camera and he disappears on an errand. We are particularly comfortable with each other. I love all my students, but this boy is unusually close to my heart. I am glad it is he at this last lesson. We have a regular, everyday lesson. I have taught approximately eight thousand regular, everyday lessons these past thirty-eight years. Six minutes to go. He humours me. We play French Folk Song, the unofficial anthem of Suzuki cellists and the ubiquitous “Tukka Tukka Stop Stop”, variation one of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. the pieces with which every one of my hundreds of students have begun. It is 8:02 PM. I am done.

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I may just be back! ….I think…..I hope so….

Well, I certainly did not post on this blog to document the last year as planned! I am now TWO, that’s right, two days from teaching my last official lesson. If I teach in the future, it will be on a one-off basis. I am passing on all my regular students to three young teachers, all three of them my “cello daughters”, which is amazing and wonderful.

The past year has been long and hard. It has been a difficult final decision to stop teaching entirely and somehow the idea of writing down the complicated events and my endless thought processes of the last year exhausted me even more than living through them. And, hoo boy, it was tedious, so much back and forth rumination and mind changing and analysis- I got sick of my own company. I have found myself drawing inward, away from everyone in my life except my husband, who, poor man, has had to live though listening to my endless going on and on and on.

There are so many reasons I have chosen to do this, and they vary from utterly practical-imagine! I can eat dinner before 9:15 PM every evening!…to existential- “who AM I if not a cello teacher?”…to altruistic-the young up-coming teachers need their chance! ….to intensely practical-can I lean forward to write in a student’s music any more times or will my back give up the ghost for good and all?

At some point I may be writing about it. I don’t know. But the decision is taken, the last seven lessons are tomorrow and Wednesday, and that evening, at 8:01 PM I will loosen my bow, and walk out of my studio for the last time in thirty-seven years.

I love writing and surprised myself by my huge fizzling out of energy and intention with respect to this blog. I feel the small stirrings of wanting to move out into the world more. And, if it happens, it truly will be “beyond grammacello”, this time.

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