A Record of Me

I keep a calendar for daily, weekly and monthly events.  This calendar stays close to me at all times.  Those dates, notes, phone numbers and loose pieces of paper are housed in a light brown, leather bound book that zips all the way around.  It’s soft and has some bruising and discoloration in more than a few places.  I often tell myself, I should get myself a new calendar.  I even tried it once, but eventually sent it back because it just didn’t feel right.  It was too wide and it didn’t zip.  It had one pathetic snap.  This was not enough to keep the contents of my life safe and sound.

I carry this calendar with me everywhere I go.  Back and forth from home to work each day.  To meetings.  To conferences.  In my suitcase.  There is just something about looking at all that print.  My life in calendar form.  Sometimes I have to highlight or write in different colored pen so certain things can stand out.  I love the sense of orderliness when I zip open that binder.

When it’s quiet and I have some extra time I enjoy looking at the back of my calendar to see notes that I’ve taken.  These notes reflect as far back as 13 years ago when I was sitting at a conference and had nothing to take notes on but my trusty calendar.  I’ve got names of new staff members and their mentors.  Directions (before Navigation) to places that were important to me 8 years ago such as school districts I’ve visited or stores that I frequented infrequently are scratched in fading pen.  Four years ago I wrote in all the names of my sister’s and mother’s doctors, the meds they took and notes from PT,OT and Speech.

When I read these notes I am transformed to my world all those years ago.  Thirteen years ago I still lived in the suburbs.  Eight years ago my life hadn’t yet been touched by cancer.  Four years ago I became immersed in the world of hospitals and doctors for a second time in my life and it was getting hard to keep it all straight.

I don’t really need those conference notes, directions, teacher names or doctor’s names anymore but something is stopping me from simply ripping those pages out and putting in clean white sheets.  Those pieces of paper represent my life.  Even now, as I’m thumbing through the tattered notes that hang on to a 7 ring binder, I remember the many ideas I thought important enough to record.  Quotes.  Lists.  Pictures I sketched.  Book titles that absolutely had to be purchased.  Ideas I hoped would come to fruition.

Most anyone could pick up my calendar and get a pretty accurate sense of who I am and what’s important to me by flipping through the pages.  And, for that reason I just can’t see clear to erase this record of me.

A Story with a Different Ending

It was one of the most traumatic nights of my young life.

There they were.  These strange men standing at the door in their black wool coats.  “We have to take it now”, they said.  “Now?!  On the night of my concert?!”  I couldn’t believe it.  This was really happening.  There I sat.  In my living room, in my pressed white shirt and shiny blue pants.  Ready for the concert but not ready for the concert.  These strange men had just repossessed my lifeline.  They took my flute.

I’ve rehashed this event many times since it originally happened more than 40 years ago.  I’ve told my close friends.  My co-workers.  I even told the instrument rental company guy who was in my district recruiting young musicians.  “I will help you”, I said, “because I believe in the importance of music and playing an instrument for young children…but don’t…DO NOT….EVER…..go to their home and take that instrument away from them…EVER.”  Not in my district.  Not with my kids.  Do I need therapy? I wondered?

I guess one of the reasons I’ve rehashed this story over the years is because I am constantly amazed at how insightful my mother was back then.  She knew how vital this act was for me – to join the school band.  She knew it was going to be my anchor when so many things around me were falling apart in my young life.  My father moved out.  I played the flute.  My parents divorced.  I made music.  My father died.  I saw my band director as a pseudo father figure.  I felt out of place in High School.  I belonged in the band.

Maybe it was band recruitment night that brought me back to my 10 year old self so quickly.  So, I rehashed the story yet again!  But, this time I talked with the one other person who was directly involved.  My mother.  Talking about it made her sad.  We were sad together.  But then something happened.  A new ending to the story began to emerge.  It was like I was in the moment and I saw the story unfold before me.

My mother played piano.  She wasn’t all that good and didn’t play very often, but it was something she did in her childhood.  The piano was a staple in our living room.  Big, black, bold, elegant piano.  Many holidays were spent sitting on that bench.  It served as an extra chair when we had company.  Even though I rarely heard my mom play I knew she cherished that piano.  It stood for something in her memory.

Thinking back on the story with my mom, I realized that after my flute was repossessed I noticed one or two strangers in the house for the next week.

Soon the piano was gone.

My mother had sold her piano.

Then, just as quickly as the piano was gone, my flute was back in my hands.

Now my story now has a different ending.  It starts with a mother’s love and it ends the same way.