The week after my Confining Illness was almost harder than the week itself. There was a point what with the obscenely sore throat and conjunctivitis in both eyes that I realized couldn’t even pretend to work. After that I almost enjoyed not having to do anything except occasionally forage for food. Feeling well enough to work isn’t the same as feeling well enough to dive back into everything so I did the minimum.
It helped that it was Pajama Week. That meant that though I was back at work, I could dress the same as I did the week I was sick, although my work pajamas were cleaner. In between students I behaved like I had the previous week, i.e. making inroads into 1960s television and drinking tea. Lessons were more relaxed and went faster because making cocoa and spearing marshmallows don’t require the kind of attention and expertise as teaching music.
One child had given me a candle for Christmas. When she asked about it at her lesson I told her I had burned it. She looked at me with astonishment and hurt.
“Why did you do that?”
“That’s what people do with candles,” I said. “I enjoyed it.”
“You burned it?”
I picked up a candle that was burning in the window. “See, you light this little black thing and as the candle burns, it goes away.”
She looked doubtful.
“I really enjoyed it,” I said again.
Her suspicion and hurt was unnerving because I actually hadn’t burnt the candle. I had tucked it away to re-gift to someone who can bear scented candles.
“Would you like to roast a marshmallow?” I asked.
After my private students, I was concerned about getting through The OK Chorale rehearsal. The first rehearsal of a new quarter takes a lot of energy and uses a lot of voice. After a break people come to Chorale like it’s a new session of summer camp. Things can get boisterous. I constantly have to talk over the noise to ask the sopranos to stop having quite so much fun or to remind the basses that their inability to whisper is a liability.
I made a sign out of a big piece of cardboard and a paint stir stick that said “Please Be Quiet!” on one side and “Shut the Fuck Up!” on the other. It worked beautifully in that after everyone had laughed at it, they were unusually quiet and cooperative for the opening of summer camp.
We began as we usually do with everyone introducing themselves and answering a question that I put to them. “Tell us your name and something you got for Christmas. My name is Elena and I got these earrings.”
“I’m Jim and I got a lovely case of Syrah.”
“My name is Ruthie and I got some expensive dog biscuits.” After a brief silence, Ruthie added “They were for my dog.”
We got to Mel whose ear was prominently bandaged. “I had surgery for skin cancer,” he informed us.
Not to be outdone, when we came round to Nina (rhymes with Dinah), she said, “I got skin cancer for Christmas, too,” she said. Nina had had a small patch removed above one eye during the same week I was itching with conjunctivitis.
Hal in the bass section—our inimitable Hal—turned around in his chair and said “Where do the two of you shop?!”
It’s not too late to join the Chorale for this quarter. It’ll be fun and I would never seriously tell a (new) student to shut the fuck up.