Happy Birthday, Cello Daughter!

I wrote, in a previous post, In Which I Introduce the Love of my Life that “the cello has been…my synchronistic entree, one way or another, into every major relationship…of my life.” Here is the story of one of them.

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Me, (in comments on the picture):
What a GORGEOUS baby. Genevieve has been a huge huge blessing in my life, since age 2! Thank you Johanne…for making this relationship possible!

Genevieve’s Mom, (who posted the photo on Facebook, yesterday):
Jo-Anne, I still clearly remember our first conversation (on the phone). Who could have imagined that 28 years later, we would still be at it (with new technology however). Thanks for being her cello mom.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is the piece with which all Suzuki students, regardless of instrument, start their studies. In their very earliest days as music students, the tiny players who do not yet play any pieces are called “pre-Twinklers”. At one point in my cello teaching career, I offer what is referred to, in Suzuki circles, as a pre-pre Twinkle class. Three or four tiny children, between 18 months and about 2 1/2, too young to begin the formal study of a musical instrument, come twice a week to the very small class. The kids sit on the floor with Mom or Dad and do useful and fun musical activities, centred around the Suzuki approach. A child can take the class as general musical enrichment, or continue on violin or on the cello. It is a lot of work, and the majority of my tiny students do not continue with me after the classes are over. I stop offering this after a few years. However, three of the kids who have taken the class do begin cello with me at age 3. Today, one is a quite prominent Canadian composer, one the principal cellist of a professional Canadian symphony orchestra and the third is Genevieve.

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When Genevieve is 8, several of my cello families attend a four day family music camp in Michigan. I go as well, not as a teacher but with my own three kids, all string players too. That year, and for several subsequent years, Genevieve has her birthday at camp. On her 8th birthday morning, she seeks me out and wonders, Where is her present from me? I sneak off to the gift shop and hurriedly remedy the situation. Even then, Genevieve considers me her cello Mom.

At age 10, I happen to be driving her home from a cello event. She loudly and enthusiastically informs me from the back seat that she plans to be a Suzuki cello teacher when she grows up.

Age 12, she phones me one evening to ask where a cello rehearsal is being held. and oh yes, she knows I have five cats, so do I want to adopt a dog? Her Mom has rescued a puppy and the family has too many pets to keep him. She brings the four month old dog along to the rehearsal, where we all exclaim and fuss over him. That puppy is our dear, dear Frankie.

When Genevieve is a teenager, for several summers I run a small, week long day camp for just my own cello kids at the rural home of one of them. The Suzuki Dad owns a pool installing business. We play cello, hike along the river and swim all afternoon in the salt water pool which has huge natural rocks set into the side for jumping in purposes. It is the best music camp ever! Genevieve is one of the counsellors for the little cellists, and teaches her first group lessons at that camp. (Another cello daughter features in this event too, but it is not her birthday!)

After her undergrad degree (majoring in cello, of course) she earns a Master’s in Suzuki pedagogy at a US university.

She starts team teaching group classes with me six years ago, commuting to the new town where I have moved. Now running her own program in our original city, she also teaches many of my former students’ private lessons and will teach more, next year, commuting between our two locations. While in my town, she has been using my home studio one day a week to teach. When I dismantled my studio earlier this month, she took about 95% of the teaching materials home, a win-win for us both. We speak several times weekly, by email, instant message and Facebook. We talk cello teaching of course, but also about everything else. As I said earlier, she is a huge, huge blessing in my life.

Happy birthday, dear cello daughter!

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(An unrelated note: I tried to post links in this post but cannot tell, until I publish, if they have worked. If they do not, and anyone knows WordPress and can help me out, I would be grateful. Thanks.)

What A Pain In The….Head…

In late October, my first year teaching cello, I was involved in a car accident. Alone in the car, I was stopped at a red light. Thankfully, my children, six and four, and my then-husband were at home, asleep. Exhilarated to be actually out alone, yet bone weary with the chronic exhaustion of early motherhood, and the responsibilities of setting up a new teaching studio, I was singing along to Joni Mitchell’s Leaving On A Jet Plane, when a drunk driver, headed in the opposite direction, ran the red light, going south, and neatly clipped the front bumper and grill right off a car headed east, missing a ghastly T-bone collision by a micro second. The glancing impact slewed his car around ninety degrees, and the side of his car hit mine head on. My car was instantly twenty feet back. It took police a few minutes to find my glasses which were on the floor in the far back of my station wagon after hitting the rear window like a golf ball smacked off the tee. I was not visibly hurt, although the car was totalled. The migraine headaches started the next week.

Migraines can start in childhood, and mine did, although no-one recognized them at the time. They are called ‘abdominal migraines ‘ as they involve all the stomach misery but not the head pain. At least once a week throughout most of my childhood, I was up for several hours in the dead of night, so nauseated that I would wish to die, but so terrified by the inevitable vomiting (which was the only thing that would end the misery) that I fought it as long as I could. Afterwards, I could sleep, and I was always fine the next day. At my hysterical insistence, my mother would stay up with me, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, deeply irritated by losing her ‘beauty sleep’, criticizing me for being “so high strung”, and urging me to hurry up and get it over with. As I entered puberty, these miserable episodes tailed off and then stopped.

At age twenty eight, after the car accident, the episodes began again, this time including the deep, viselike, intractable head pain part. A so-called common migraine consists of the same symptoms as my childhood events, with the charming addition of unrelenting one-sided head pain, lasting from forty-eight to seventy-two hours. The combination of symptoms is so disabling that, even drugged heavily with Gravol and painkillers, I needed to stay in bed for one or two entire days. Each headache would last three to four days. Day One was spent in bed, a lost day. Day Two I functioned, taught and parented through a nasty haze of misery, barely controlled by heavy duty drugs. Day Three was much like Day Two, if the headache were a bad one. Day Four might be a tailing off day, or might be headache free, but hung over. At least three times every month, for twenty years, this was my life, nine to twelve days out of twenty eight. Through it all, I taught my students, parented my children, lived my life. I cannot even begin to describe the misery of those headaches. My daughter says they dominated her childhood, since as the eldest child of a single mother, starting at age ten, she was the main person to pick up the slack. I still feel terribly guilty about this although there was nothing I could have done differently.

My doctor was kind and collaborative, but for years none of the many drugs we tried made any real difference. Then one day, as I sat in his office waiting room, leafing through a tattered copy of a popular ‘women’s’ magazine, I came across a sidebar paragraph, suggesting that low doses of a common blood pressure medication and the relatively new SSRI antidepressant Prozac, taken every day in combination, had, in some migraine patients, reduced headache frequency and severity significantly. I showed my doctor, and he was willing. It was a qualified miracle. I still got the headaches, but in a greatly reduced form. In time, menopause arrived and finally, blessedly, thankfully, wonderfully, there were no more migraines. None. It was a true miracle!

Then, the evening of my final (afternoon) concert as a cello teacher, I started to feel unwell. The migraine that followed was my first “real” one in fourteen years. I had two more within the following month. Since retiring, one. Four in just over a month. Unsettling, scary, weird…

The mind/body connection is a murky thing. My husband points out that the headaches sometimes appeared after a very stressful situation, such as a concert, was over. We called these “letdown headaches”. I wonder, could these recent headaches be a macro version of this phenomenon? A sort of huge scale letdown reaction after a thirty-seven year period of high stress? As I write this piece, it occurs to me to not spend too much time on it at a stretch. I have grown quite skittish about the issue.

I will keep you posted.

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Please note: This fantastic picture is not my art, but it was not credited when I came across it. I love it so I copied and saved it-a long time ago-and it seemed very appropriate for this post. If anyone knows who drew it I would really like to credit it properly.

Update: Lots of interesting information on this guy, who of course is Cerberus, the guardian of the underworld. I knew this but maybe should have said so here. Anyway, this picture IS in the public domain (thank you, Barbara) so all is well. There is a long comment thread over on Open Group For Bedlam Farm, on Facebook.

Pack Matters: How Our Two Packs Came to Be (#1 in a series)

John the Husband, otherwise known as “Mighty Fang”, and I, and Chiwee the Wonder Chihuahua, used to belong to the Cozy Pack. The other two pack members were Frankie the perfect and sweet Daisy. I think John named us as we spent yet another night all cozy in the winter living room. We would ask the dogs, splayed in front of the fire, cooking themselves, “Are you cozy?” They always were.

As I write, we have two new pack members, but we are still a pack of five. In keeping with their comfort loving souls, both Frankie and Daisy died good deaths at a ripe old age after several years meandering around gently as senior dogs. Frank was always the best dog in the world-I do not care what you say about your dog-he really, really was!-but Daisy improved markedly in her dotage. She forgot about savaging every miniature Schnauzer and Westie that crossed her path; grew deaf, which eliminated her terror of thunder and fireworks; and her bizarre camera phobia was solved when I bought an iPad. She wandered vaguely around during her last couple of years, arthritic, slightly senile and leash free, smiling at everyone. As for Frank, an acquaintance once said, “I do not like dogs, but Frankie is welcome in my living room anytime.” Indeed, he was perfect. Chiwee, now a nine-year-old, thus middle-aged, purebred Chihuahua, is as good as his breed gets. He has never bitten or snapped, not even once, he is obedience trained, barks no more than the other two, and is as calm as a Chi can be. He is only jittery-he screams-about his body and personal space, which is understandable given that his two present pack-mates weigh 93 and 97 pounds. It is as if a couple of heedless, one ton toddlers were sharing their space with you, about to inadvertently trip over you at any moment. (This is an actual calculation, were you to weigh about 170. Chiwee is a svelte 7.5 pounds) Lest you think I am prejudiced, at the groomers, where they are usually less than thrilled by his breed, they in fact call him the Wonder Chihuahua, and threaten to take him home.

To maintain our status quo as a pack of five, we have replaced each dear departed after an interval. My selection criteria used to be strict. When Frankie died first, he was thirteen or fourteen, a great old age for his breed(s). He had been a rescue, just 4 or 5 months old, with his baby teeth still, when we adopted him. I was, at first, looking for his replacement. That is, an even tempered, obedient, fastidious, perfectly mannered, calm, kind, slightly submissive, male* Lab/Chow Chow cross, biggish, and black. We went to the dog rescue place to look, with a short list of four dogs, all big, all black, one female on the list for good measure. There were detailed descriptions plus a video of each dog on the rescue’s website. We felt confident! When we called the name of each dog, of the four, only Maggie came. She hastened right over, leaned into our legs and sighed happily. The rescue guy said, “She doesn’t ever do that…” She was home. It did occur to me, much later, that the other three had been named by the rescue and thus probably did not even KNOW their names. Only Maggie, who had been sadly surrendered back to the rescue by her previous owners, as too much dog in every way, and had kept her adoptive name, did. We were goners, in any case.

So our Mags, who had used up two whole homes before us, that we know of, became our new pack member, aged about two. She is a huge, brindled/black, mercurial tempered, intense, mastiff cross (with some Great Dane or possibly Lab genes), a funny, exasperating, crazy-smart, disobedient, terribly behaved female who really needs immortalizing in a movie like Marley despite the ongoing twice daily obedience training that she gets, seven days week like all our dogs, from her adored husband. Sorry, I mean from my husband, although Maggie is not convinced, since Mighty Fang is utterly besotted with her, and calls her “My Beauty”, whereas my nickname is “The Alpha Bitch”. Oh yes and she drools. Very copiously, as if she were rabid, foaming at the mouth. We have stopped noticing, really, but visitors are a touch put off.
Pack wise, Maggie is not really ‘cozy’ material.

Two years after Maggie arrived, after nearly seven years with us, Daisy died aged somewhere between, say, twelve and seventeen, in mid October, 2012. We considered reverting to a pack of four then, since Maggie is the equivalent of several normal dogs, and we lasted from then till the rescue’s annual fundraising hike the following May. I signed up John and Maggie to hike with one of the rescue dogs available at that time, which seemed the right thing to do. We assured each other solemnly that we would NOT be tempted to adopt again! Maggie was too much! We were getting older! We would be strong!

Usually, I am the finder of new dogs. I scour the net. I force John to look at hundreds of sad cases. To adopt Daisy we drove four hours, over the border from Canada to the Detroit Humane Society. It turned out that Daisy, listed as a dog friendly (not sure about kids or cats) Lab/Chow Chow cross, ready and eager to play ball with us, was a beautiful but highly neurotic, triple coated, prick eared, northern breed blonde, with no discernible Lab at all. Maybe she had Chow-Chow, since her tongue was blue-ish, but never in all her life did she chase, or even even look at a ball. If we tried throwing one, for Frankie, who was only mildly interested himself, it would actually bounce off Daisy’s head, while she looked confused and vaguely hurt. She never played. She was very territorial with most other dogs and her territory extended way, way beyond our property as time went on. She was her own very unique self, as all dogs are, and greatly deepened John’s continuing journey with dog obedience training, which was lucky, given his future wife, I mean Maggie, who as you can see, keeps inserting herself into every situation.

Anyway, at that May hike, John and Maggie walked with a four year old white (with big brown brindle splotches) Boxer cross named Billy. Chiwee and I socialized on lawnchairs with a few other non hiking types, and then we went home. I had not even really met Billy properly and he emphatically was not my (Frankie clone) type. I did not give him another thought. John went off to read the newspaper on the deck. I took a nap. As I slept, in John’s mind, while he (did not) read the paper, a dialogue ran something like this:

Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Well, it is really too bad, but we cannot have three dogs.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Three dogs is too many to handle.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Three dogs are too expensive.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Since Daisy died, we have been happy with a pack of two. There is no need to mess with it.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Reason says, don’t do it!
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.

I got up and came outside. Then I emailed the rescue.
He said later, “I just could not shake the idea that this nice, nice dog would go back to the rescue unadopted, no matter how well the dogs are treated. In his three months there, not one person has come to look at him, or has even enquired about him. A voice just kept telling me, “You cannot just leave Billy to languish there. That is too good a dog not to have a home”.”

And here is that same dog, this sunny afternoon, lying on “his” couch, sighing a big happy sigh, my dear, dear Frankie clone in a Boxer/St Bernard costume. Billy is an *even tempered, obedient, fastidious, perfectly mannered, calm, kind, slightly submissive, male…the perfect dog. But he is also Billy. He loves to howl recreationally. He has taught Chiwee to howl and they lift those two snouts in unison, the tiny one and the huge blocky one, setting one another off for minutes on end. They enjoy:
1) sirens on TV
2) sirens in real life, and
3) YouTube videos of dogs howling. Also fake howls from me, but not always.
Billy also mouth wrestles endlessly with Maggie, who finally has someone to play with! They flash their teeth, and chew on each other’s back legs, Billy mock growling, Maggie groaning in harmony. They race madly around the yard like puppies. Attached at the hip, they are seldom more than three feet apart. Maggie has, in turn, taught Billy lots of new things: to bark for the heck of it, to provocatively steal socks, sometimes right off a foot, and that couches are the best place for a nap, stretched out full length. Life is good.
But we never, ever refer to ourselves as the Cozy Pack these days. Finally we have decided on a new name: Meet the Never A Dull Moment Pack. Here they are:

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Not Teaching! Day 8

I am watching John train the dogs. It is day eight of my retirement. I am so happy-so busy-so excited! I have a list of things to do a mile long that somehow seemed impossible before. I am relishing the oddest things- going through boxes and de-crapping our house, box by box, room by room. It will be a looong project and I am excited by the space and simplicity I will create. I am downsizing my cello studio-moving it upstairs to our “guest” room, which till now has been the “dump random crap and the unfolded laundry” room. In the fall, I will play in my flute/cello/piano trio again. It has been on hold for these last few years of teaching. I am creating a smaller upstairs cello studio just for me! I am waiting a year to decide whether to rejoin the local symphony orchestra. I LOVE playing in it -see my post about my childhood ambitions-but it locks me into a very late evening each week and six weekends a year. I think I need a year entirely free of these things, plus of course the obligation to practise for them. But, I will play! Two pieces are languishing that I have (supposedly ) been learning for… oops, years, now.
When my daughter and grandkids visit they all three have had to cram into one room. Now, there will be a couch to pull out for one of them there, and a REAL, dedicated guest room instead of the downstairs teaching studio, with its own half bathroom. It was a lovely teaching space and will be an ideal space now for visiting family. The timing is perfect-K is nearly 13 and too old to share a small bedroom with his Mom and younger sister for two weeks, plus HE needs a place to play his cello! On their annual long summer visit, the kids spend five days at the local performing arts camp at which I now get to be doting Gramma instead of teacher-Gramma frazzled mess, another thrill! Furniture is being moved and repurposed. New carpet is on the horizon. I love this. It seems retirement, like the arrival of a new baby, involves nesting.
Jon Katz frequent mentions that he will never talk of retiring-will never retire. I feel defensive although I know it is not about me. It has set me thinking. Retiring does not mean a narrowing to me but an expansion. Of my time. Of my soul. Freedom to be myself. Freedom from a rigid schedule. Freedom to lead a wider and bigger life. Freedom to watch John train the dogs; to dream in the hot tub without watching the clock; to use my energy and strength for me, and not always have to calculate how much physical and psychic energy I must conserve for the teaching. It was very very hard hard work, despite the wonderful job it was. Physically and emotionally. I always put everything I had into it. That did take a toll, narrowed my focus, depleted tolerance and played havoc with the discs in my back. A part of me was always playing a role. To be patient, to never ever lose my temper, to listen politely, to have impeccable language. To always be on time, to never slip up. People seeing the job from the outside do not see some of these harder aspects. The fact is- no matter how fond of your students you are- at bottom, sadly, it is a business transaction. A cynical music teacher friend once said: “The loyalty of a Suzuki parent has the thickness of a two dollar bill”. Although I would not go so far as that, this aspect has always been very hard for me, as my love for my students is very real. Yesterday, I made my quarterly deposit of student cheques at the bank. So many last things….

And firsts. My granddaughter M wants a twirly skirt. A long, twirly, skirt. PINK, with cats on it! At nine she will not be a little girl who adores me in a little girl way for very much longer. I am lucky she is still “little”. Some nine-year-olds are small teenagers already. I tell her Mom, my daughter, that I will sew her one. “You can SEW??” she says, astonished. I realize that I have not sewed since she was younger than six, when I started teaching.

I”ll end here, for now. I am off to find a fabric store.

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K, my grandson, at 12. Sheer Joy!

In which I Introduce the Love of My Life

In school, I clearly should have paid more attention in math class. Someone commented on my last post about the 800 cello lessons I had taught. Since I actually wrote the number 8000, am a stickler for detail, and, indeed, pride myself on not making these sorts of mistakes- except in math it turns out…oh pride…and falls…keep reading…

So, let’s start over, class. Feel free to check the [retired] teacher’s work. Please! You may use your calculators-you’ll need them…

The fewest cello students I ever taught, in any one year, was 5. I clearly recall the meticulous detail in a note to myself, written as I nervously prepare to teach my very first lesson ever, in the fall of 1977:
“1) Show Donald the bow and talk about how to hold it. Have him make his fingers into bunny ears or other animal-Donald chooses!”
(I don’t remember which one he decided on.)

That first year, 5 lessons a week for a thirty-six week teaching year would be…um…wait for this, 180. 180 lessons private lessons taught.

I had not really planned to be a music teacher. I wanted to play in an orchestra. I fell in love with the cello early, at age 6. I am taken to a Toronto Symphony Young People’s Concert at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall where a friend of the family, a cellist, is on stage, playing in the orchestra.
Inexplicably, I am utterly smitten with the cello. From then on, whenever I am asked the tired old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I tell people that I am going to play the cello like my Uncle Vaughan. My parents, older, bridge playing heavy drinkers with no background or interest in classical music, pay no attention. Even “Uncle” Vaughan, to whom I am not close, is not really interested.

However, the Toronto public school system has an amazingly comprehensive strings program. At the end of grade four, age 10, I am invited by the school principal to join the violin orchestra. True to my instrument already, even though I have never even touched a cello, I refuse outright, haughtily telling the principal: “No thank you. I’d rather play the cello”. Since students are allowed to begin in the strings program only in grade five, it is this year or never. Cello, less commonly chosen, is offered only every other year, and it is the wrong year. My parents are annoyed with me. It is prestigious to be asked and they are avid lovers of a bargain, if not of classical music. They see the chance both to get a deal, and to satisfy my inexplicable, irritating, “hoity toity” obsession with the cello at no cost to themselves. The school will supply an instrument, weekly group lessons, and even an in-school string orchestra. All free, until the end of high school. My mother actually makes an effort on my behalf and speaks to the principal. It is the fall of 1959. I am now a cello player.

In 1968, when I choose music as my major in university, my mother says, “I blame John McDougall”, who is my beloved high school music teacher. She is serious. My parents push strongly for me to quit school after grade ten and become a secretary. They never come to a single one of the several concerts a year that I organize and lead for my students. When I become pregnant with my third child, my father says, “I hope you are planning to forget this cello teaching nonsense and stay at home where you belong”. It is 1981, and I am in my fourth year of cello teaching, with 27 private students. They never come around. In 1996, I play the Faure ‘Elegie’ at my mother’s funeral. My father squirms and “wishes the hell I’d shut up”, sotto voce to my two children sitting with him. Aged 25 and 15, both accomplished violinists, they are horrified.

The cello has been my solace, my livelihood, and my synchronistic entree, one way or another, into every major relationship and event of my life.

However, this post is about my math skills, or lack thereof. In year two, 12 students a week come through my door in my own fledgling program. As well, that same year I am asked, by a Suzuki School in a neighbouring city, to teach 10 beginners. Suzuki cello is in its infancy in North America. We do not yet have published books of the standardized repertoire for cello instruction, just mimeographed copies, passed from teacher to teacher. (Remember those? We would inhale the smell of those still damp sheets in school, presumably killing off many brain cells…aha! This must explain the math issue!) Actual published Suzuki cello books appear one at time, at such a glacial pace that my own son (who I teach myself for ten years) is always a book or two beyond the latest published volume.

Year three: I am thrilled-22 students at home that September! I ask for a year’s commitment at a time, and this becomes a permanent policy. I give up the second school to concentrate on my own program, which includes violin as well, taught by my best friend. We now have a growing ‘school’.

As the years pass, my studio seldom numbers fewer than 20. Some years I am well over 30, and one year I have a bumper crop of 42!

It is a demanding job, physically and emotionally, and the hours are peculiar. Not a morning person, I teach as early as 7:00 AM and as late as 9:00 PM, Monday to Friday. After school and early evening times are in highest demand, plus a couple of lunch hours each week. Parents do pull some children out of class for their weekly private lesson, but more recently this largely stops as parenting mores change. Group classes on Saturday mornings take a chunk from every weekend, September through June. I work for thirty seven years when nearly everyone else is off. That part does become very old…..Where was I?

Oh yeah, math! So, it seems that, based on an approximate average of twenty-five lessons a year, with the average teaching year thirty-three weeks long….excuse me, getting a calculator…….

25 students a week for 33 weeks is 825 lessons a year. Multiply this by 37 years…..
Wait for it…30,525 lessons.
Thirty thousand, five hundred twenty-five.
30,525 give or take.

Thirty. Thousand. Lessons.

Really?!?
This time I have checked the math, again and again. Truly, I have never thought about this before. I guess I was too busy teaching.

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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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