Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Chicken soup for a grandmother's soul
Sophie and I had a date tonight.
A few months ago, I won a silent auction for a music lesson with a local professor. I bid on it because I thought Sophie might like the experience. She was eager to go when I picked her up after school. The college is only minutes away. As we walked across the leafy campus, Sophie exclaimed, "I bet I'm the first seven-year-old to go to college!" I laughed and said that, for tonight, she would probably be the only seven-year-old on her way to a percussion lesson.
She took everything in - the classic Greek columns and the students milling about. "Babci, how old are they?" I got to tell her about college life, a subject dear to my heart since I spent almost twenty years in administration, teaching and advisement.
The professor, not much older than the students, greeted us in a small studio filled with a grand piano (which took up most of the space), drum set, and marimba. Sophie told him that she liked all kinds of instruments. He took her over to the piano and showed her the sounding board and she placed her fingers over the strings as he struck the keys. She was totally engaged and could tell the difference in the tones as he told her to press firmly and then more lightly. Her initial shyness wore off quickly and soon he was leading her around the room, letting her try out the drum set and the marimba. She played a basic rhythm pattern with her foot on the bass drum and her hands on the snare, tom-toms and cymbals. He then played a riff around her drumming. I was so proud of her because she kept a steady rhythm as he joined in. He taught us about the history of the drums ranging from Africa to Europe to Turkey and the United States. Sophie managed to answer him back later when he quizzed her about the percussion instruments and their evolution.
My smile just widened as the lesson continued. From the drums, they moved over to the marimba, a beautiful instrument with a mellow tone. Sophie was given two mallets and shown hand positions and how to strike the center of the keys. I played a scale on the piano while the prof duplicated the notes on the marimba to show her how both instruments use the same tonal structure. Then he showed her how to play a simple melody and she soon recognized what she was playing. He even showed her how to change keys when she started on an alternate note. I was impressed - Sophie was really getting into it. Finally, he invited me to join them on the marimba and, before you knew it, Sophie was striking a bass rhythm line and the prof and I were playing a melody above her. The three of us played two songs together, Sophie staying in tempo all the way. He and she hit it off quite well. She was excited when he told her that he would invite us to one of his performances at the college in November.
As we walked back to the car, she told me that she was going to write about her music lesson in her diary. Since it was our special date night, I asked her where she'd like to go for dinner and she chose her favorite Asian restaurant. We had miso soup, steamed dumplings, ginger and green-tea ice cream. We shared fortune cookies, lucky numbers ... and girl talk, lots of girl talk.
The chicken-soup photo was taken four years ago. Sophie has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Her tastes have grown more sophisticated: miso soup and dinner out with grandmom instead of grandmom's homemade chicken soup.
What a joy she is! What a joy it is for me to watch her bloom.
We ended the night with homework. She loves math and spelling. Funny, I loved math and spelling when I was her age too.
Thank you, Sophie, for being you. May learning new things always bring excitement, like tonight.