Sunday, July 18, 2010

Nomads Like Me

"Where you from?"  This simple question will get you a complicated answer if you're asking a Mighty -- especially me.  If my numbers are correct, I've lived in 21 homes in three different countries. Perhaps that isn't too striking given that I'm pushing 40, but Emma's up to four and three respectively and she's only nine. I can still hear my adolescent self swearing that, when I grew up, I would never move. Perhaps that was my first lesson in never say never.

A few weeks ago the girls and I made our annual pilgrimage to Canada, this time pausing in Dearborn, Michigan to see Mighty Mom home #5.

"It's really small," the girls said on seeing the post-WWII bungalow. A car was in the drive. I could have rang the bell, introduced myself and asked to see inside, but didn't. I knew all too well what it's like to have perfect strangers roam your home, imagining their things in place of your own. Instead, I told Emma and Mouse about the maple tree that used to grow on the front lawn and how I felt strangely important because the stop sign was on our property. I pointed to the window where our neighbours' oak tree found its way into our kitchen and to the house where the dog lived that once chased me home. A neighbour across the street opened her front door and stared at us until we drove away. The woman was clearly too young to have known me back then. Pity.

We followed the route I used to walk to school, all nine blocks, passing the corner where the crossing guard once stood, the one who reported me for crossing unescorted. The school, Snow School, was still there, though thankfully the playground had had an upgrade. I wondered if they still served popcorn and fish sticks on Fridays and if the marching band still led the school in the annual Clean-up Parade. Names passed through my mind: Mr. Bruno, Mr. Sladewski, Miss Sisson, Mrs. Gerrity, Mr. Maddocks, Mr. Gregorian, and Mrs. Thomas. I wanted to roam the halls but the doors were locked. Next time...

A day later we explored Greenfield Village where, thirty years ago, I spent a day in a one-room schoolhouse and ate my lunch out of a coffee tin I'd decorated for the occasion. The girls and I roamed between centuries-old cottages, plantations, artisan shops and working farms, all transported to the village courtesy of Henry and Edsel Ford. We rode a steam train, a model-T bus, and multiple horse-drawn carriages and watched numerous dramatizations of life in colonial times. We even got to participate in one as runaway slaves. It was so much fun I was sorry the Captain wasn't with us. I suppose there's always next year. Of course there's a few other homes I'd like to revisit as well.

Enjoy these photos and if your ever passing through Dearborn, Michigan, consider staying a day. You won't regret it, even if you never lived there.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Confessions of a Piano Mom

Soccer Moms have all the glory: minivans, faux-brass trophies to put on their mantles, and laundry tricks for getting Bug Juice out of polyester. They form ranks around soccer pitches around the globe, cheering their little prodigies to victory while secretly praying they don't make it to finals so they can go home. But what about the unsung heros: the Piano Moms?

Granted, we are a notch below Violin Moms in musical martyrdom — we doff our imaginary crowns in their venerable direction — but here we stand: proud, determined and emotionally drained. A seemingly endless chorus of "Why do I have to practice?" sings us to sleep to the tune of our child's latest simple melody played in resentful staccato. But sleep, we must, because we will do it all again tomorrow, alone, with only our children's best interests to buoy us through.

Someone once said, "Children cut their teeth on their parents." Never in their lives has this ever been more true of my girls. Do they like the piano? Yes. Do they want piano lessons? Absolutely. Do they like their teacher? Without a doubt, especially when they perform their pieces for him to heart-bursting perfection. But practice? God forbid. No time is a good time. It's either too early or too late. They're too hungry, too sleepy or, the absolute worst, they've just started the best game in the world which will be completely ruined by senseless interruption. Nevertheless, without the promise of trophies or popsicles at half time, we Piano Mom's must inflict the ultimate indignity: the death march to the piano bench. A few warm ups and they settle in, but our ears must stay alert for digressions: Chopsticks, vampire-esque chords or, worse, silence.

Perhaps if Piano Moms got shiny red convertibles, garden flags, and arm bands all would be easier. We could wave at each other as we pass on our way to and from lessons, high-five in the grocery aisles, and nod appreciably as we cut the grass. I suppose there must be Piano Mom chat rooms out there where I might commiserate with like-minded musical martyrs but with two girls in lessons I simply haven't the time.

So to all you Piano Moms out there, I salute you. We are the honourable ones. And to you Violin Moms: I don't know how you do it.