Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pachelbel Canon in D: Memories, Comfort and Christmas

I'm a huge lover of music and due to the wonderful magic of Christmas(!) and a baby that sometimes needs some help getting to sleep, I was re-introduced to a piece of music that recently opened a flood-gate of memories.

Background: I was in bed with the radio on, tuned (of course) to the all-Christmas station. I also had Colsen's monitor on. The radio station was playing the Trans Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Canon, the base of which is Pachelbel's Canon in D. In Colsen's room, Francine the fish (his soothing-sounds aquarium) was on and the 'lullaby' playing was also Canon in D. It was the weirdest thing to hear such a rich version layered with the Fisher-Price crap version (coming through a monitor no less). But they were dead on in tempo, key and location in the song.

The first time I remember hearing the piece of music was on an episode of The Wonder Years. (I'm old.) Kevin Arnold was taking piano lessons and this was the piece he was playing for his recital. I fell in love it with right then and there. I was taking piano lessons at the same time and immediately told my parents that I needed the sheet music so I could play it at home. I didn't actually have to play it as part of my lessons, but I just needed to have the music and be able to play it. We bought it and I did.

Thinking back about piano lessons was a trip down memory lane. My piano teacher, Jill Simpson (God love her), seemed so very mean but was such a good treacher. I remember taking an exam  (Grade 4 RCM - theory and practical) and thinking I blew it. Got the results and passed the practical First Class Honours with Distinction, and probably got about 95% on the theory (written) exam. Imagine my surprise. Even as a 13-year old, I recognized then how good she was. Definitely a "huh, go figure" moment.

Her house smelled like mothballs, she only ever had blue & green Christmas lights outdoors and white Christmas lights inside. She had both a grand piano and an upright in one room, and what seemed like hundreds of those Royal Doulton figurines all over the place. She was also a member of our church, but moved to another church because the choir wasn't good enough(!). I will always associate the smell of mothballs with her.

I remember procrastinating as much as humanly possible when it was time to practice. I was asked to practice 1/2 an hour per day and yet probably only managed 1/2 an hour per week (not including the actual 1/2 hour lesson). Jill was particularly cruel those weeks. The odd week I did practice 1/2 an hour per day the lessons were wonderful. Clearly the positive re-inforcement wasn't enough for me to keep it up.

I remember Scotty (younger brother) being put through the ringer with Jill Simpson. Like, terrorized. I'll just leave it that he did not have to continue his lessons with her, or with the piano.

I remember my Mom getting a speeding ticket when coming to pick us up one day. We sat on the curb waiting for her, just wanting to get as far away as possible from that house after a particularly poor set of lessons.

I also remember my Dad. Despite my plunking on the piano, likely sounding far worse than better in all my years doing it, he would often sit downstairs in the family room and just listen. He loved it -- wrong notes and all. Something about making something out of nothing. :) 

I will sign my kids up for piano lessons. Gaby be warned.

Here's the tune that inspired the memories. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Overwhelmed, grateful and determined

For the last few years, as our family (immediate and extended) has grown, we have moved away from purchasing Christmas gifts for adults and focused only on the kids. This means that each munchkin walks away with, literally, a mountain of toys. Although it's greatly appreciated, it can also get a little out-of-control.

So, this Christmas, we collectively decided to Adopt-A-Family and transfer some of that "goodwill" to a family that needs it a little more. The process was dead easy. Our adopted family consisted of a single Mom with twin baby boys. Their wish-list was provided and, can I just say, it was slightly heartbreaking -- baby spoons and bowls, bathwash, warm sleepers, a high chair, snowsuits, hats, mitts, diapers, a winter jacket for herself, etc. Bare necessities really.

We fulfilled as much of the list as we could and today I dropped off all the goods.

The agency was sooooo very appreciative of all the items we provided, it was a little overwhelming. Even being in the CAS offices was a bit more than I could handle. While waiting at reception, I happened to glance at the sign-in sheet and it was full of Mom's coming to visit their kids. I could hear babies crying and it almost put me right over the edge as the gravity of where I was hit me. I'd had a bad morning, too, and it made my frustrations so unbelieveably lame in the grand scheme of things.

As an outsider reading the news, dropping toonies in the Sally Ann container and contributing via corporate paycheque, I am so far away from it all it doesn't even register. Because of that it's easy to forget. Today, being so very close to the sincere appreciation and sadness of it all, it really brought it home. I will never forget that sign-in sheet.

I've been pretty lack about keeping New Years resolutions in the past (I think I've been resolving to learn how to drive standard for about 15 years now), but at some point in the new year I am going to volunteer locally to help families in need, any way I can.

We have so much and I am so grateful for that, moreso now than ever before.