Monday, December 20, 2010

a christmas memory

Last week, during a staff meeting, we were asked to tell a favorite holiday memory. A couple ideas occurred to me, the year I got Super Mario Bros. 3 was a good year, I liked going to the Nutcracker ballet with my mom....presents, lights, hams, fudge.......all fun....all good. But not really a memory.

This is mine. And I shouldn't tell it. It's one of my best stories.

In high school, my chamber music group played city hall during the month of December. We set up in a small out of the way alcove, to play to people doing business. Walking to lunch, moving the wheels of bureaucracy. We had plenty of time. Time to get bows ready, music straightened, strings tuned, and then we began the noisy buzz of string players with nothing to do but wait.

I sat and waited. Once I was tuned I was too self conscious to ever warm up. So I sat and enjoyed the city hall architecture, the red bows, the lit trees, and the swirling sound of a small orchestra off kilter.

And then, from behind, amidst all the noise, a song. My teacher, who was sitting among the group, was tuning his violin as well. The same warm up noise, double stops, adjusting, until notes began to piece themselves together from the fray. The notes became the smallest, saddest Christmas song in the holiday oeuvre. have yourself a merry little christmas. It sounded like a bird, a message that pushed against the noise, but did nothing to fight it. I listened, watching, seeing every sweet note travel to the impossibly high ceiling. Filling each corner. I was not listening to this from my seat. I was having an experience from far away, I was far more than a bystander, I was listening from another world.

This dark, but light sweet sadness was oppressive to me. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. Everything else is the exaggeration, this is the truth. This is my favorite of all memories. Listening to a sweet violin, from a great height, finding a treasure.

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight. they will be miles away.

the song ended. I sat in my seat, choked with beauty and love. A tearful acknowledgement of having actually noticed one of the moments of my life.
And then it was time to perform.

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