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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