I was 13 years old when I told Mom that I wanted to be a voice teacher after college. We were at a gas station – the one at Northwest and La Prada – and I announced my decision as we were getting out of the car. I was always having important conversations with her, or maybe more accurately at her, during the most uninspired tasks. I would hover and follow her doggedly as she shopped, washed dishes, dusted, paid bills, and trimmed trees, my mouth as busy as her hands. I even followed her to the bathroom – often, bless her heart. This time she was pumping gas when she responded to my life’s calling with wise words I’ll never forget, “But you won’t have health insurance.” I love this memory.
And here’s another. I was 10. I had been taking private voice lessons for a year. My voice teacher Suzanne had arranged for me to sing for a recording session in Dallas. She said they needed a voice like mine – polished but young. I was nervous as I arrived for my lesson the day of, but thrilled and honored that she had recommended me. My nerves shifted direction as she opened the door. I could feel the bad news coming. The session had fallen through. I’m sure she said why, but I couldn’t hear anything but the ringing in my ears brought by my sudden disappointment. Suzanne knew how hurt I would be. As I entered the music room, she had two plastic cups waiting on the piano bench. She didn’t wait for my tears to fall before teaching me the game. We sat on the floor, and tended my wounds with rhythm. Clap, clap, bah, dah, bah, clap, grab, move. Clap, grab, turn, slam, change, slap, over. Again. Clap, clap, bah, dah, bah, clap, grab, move. Clap, grab, turn, slam, change, slap, over. Again. Again. Again. How many times through did it take before I’d forgotten to be sad?
These memories are the old friends that visit me when I’m in my home music studio. Rearranging this room is complicated. There’s no desk to clear out, no locker to clean, and I haven’t taken the flash cards and stickers off of my music stand yet. I still have stacks of books and sheet music on the floor by my keyboard – kept handy for when the inspiration hits that a certain song is perfect for a certain student. I’m not ready to put away the made-up music review games and dozens of worksheets I’ve created over the years. I’m not ready to take down the handmade thank you cards and drawings from my students. I have organized not just an entire room, but an entire life around teaching. For over 15 years I’ve said, “I am a voice and piano teacher!” How do I begin to rearrange that?
Today I’m as hackneyed an example of losing one’s self in a marriage as there ever was. Not my marriage to Big D, the one to teaching. Our marriage certificate came in the form of a college degree, and like anyone, I expected this union to bring security, stability, mutual respect, and yes, passion too – for life. But, going on for a while now, I’ve spent a lot of time alone, waiting for the phone to ring. I’ve made constant excuses for the missed appointments and broken promises. I’ve pretended not to notice the lack of respect and the apathy for the time and care I give. I’ve pretended not to need more.
So, would I, this adult-like self go back and spoil the ending for that enthusiastic 13-year-old? Why? She’d probably just tell me the same thing she told her mother that day at the gas station, “So what?” And she’d be right. “So what” is right; to which I’d add, so what now?
– Anita, Noted in Nashville