Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Optimism?

I'm taking that title today from three things. First, from two entries in Barb's blog "Skittles Place" and the third, from the entry for Friday, January 12, 2007 from my Bushisms calendar.

I'll give you the calendar quote first:
"And I am an optimistic person. I guess if you want to try to find something to be pessimistic about, you can find it, no matter how hard you look, you know?" (Washingto, D.C.; June 15, 2004)

And, the things that, to me, tie together, in maybe an offbeat way, from Skittles Place were a Quickie question she had asking if you "play an instrument" along with her comment at the beginning of her blog stating she planned to spend the day watching the funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford.

Let's work our way down through this as I see it in my mind - which might be a somewhat confused, rambling trip too, as you are probably already thinking, but bear with me anyway.

The musical instrument thing first here - yes, I have taken instruction on three different instruments during my younger years. Starting when I was about in 3rd grade or so, my mother decided I should learn to play the piano. A nice, pleasant idea that all young ladies should know how to play the piano was pretty much the "norm" I think back then, plus - we just happened to have a big old upright piano here in the house, so why not let me make some use of that instrument, broaden my mind, allow my musical talents to pour forth. I think that was more what my Mom had in her dream world for her daughter anyway.

But, suffice it to say, I started taking taking lessons from a lady in Philipsburg who was at that time, well in her 80's. Strict, very stern, extremely particular in how one "addressed" the piano for openers. Your posture had to be just so and with me, that was a huge goal in her mind before we even began the very basics of piano instruction. Time too - that metronome clicked back and forth constantly and time apparently was another area about music that was not a strong point in me. My cousin, Ruth Ann, I think had also taken her basic piano instruction from Miss Dom - Miss Grace Dom, if I remember correctly, was her name. She and I just never got along very well; I disliked her immensely and used that frequently as my excuse for not practicing my scales, finger placement exercises and the etude books she insisted I had to learn frontwards and backwards and every which way in between too!

Then, in the winter of my 4th grade year in school, our music teacher, after administering some kind of tests to determine which students had hidden musical talent/ability, determined (probably because I could at least read music by then) that I would be a good candidate to learn to play another instrument. Papers were sent home to give my mother all this wonderful news that she had a budding star musician on her hands and to inquire if perhaps, somewhere within the family, there might be an instrument hidden away that I could use in this new aspect of the musical program within our school district.

Somehow, word got back to my Dad's family about how much talent I had with respect to learning music, an instrument, etc., and it was made known that a violin that had belonged to my Dad's brother (my Uncle Rab), was up at the family homestead and that if I wanted to take violin lessons, this would be available for me to use.

So it was decided then I take violin lessons and I'm sure my Mom had dreams of my becoming the next virtuoso violinist with maybe the New York Symphony someday or at the very least, the lead violin player in the school orchestra our music teacher had dreams of forming.

Sadly, none of that - other than my taking lessons on the instrument for roughly three school years - ever took place! Although I did practice occasionally, I was -again - not faithful in my practice sessions. Thankfully, my grandfather was by that time getting very hard of hearing because I really don't think there is anything worse to hear than the screeching sounds produced by someone trying to learn to play the violin! But Grandpa would listen to me make my meager attempts at practice and always commented to me on how wonderful that music sounded. He apparently had lost his musical ear too because I KNOW what sounds were being produced by me were far from good!

Somewhere along those three years of taking violin lessons, I also switched piano teachers too. I convinced Mom that Miss Dom was just too outdated in her methods of teaching and could I please change teachers - maybe switch over to the lady in Philipsburg who had given instruction to a distant cousin of ours and our neighbor across the road (Bev Lundgren) and look how well Bev had done with her as a teacher. So, I began taking instructions then for a time from Miss Grace Moore - also located in Philipsburg. She was much friendlier than Miss Dom, that much was for sure and she did have more patience with me too, although I think I probably wore that pretty doggone thin too because of one particular trait that kept popping up - I hated to practice!

Somewhere in time - 6th grade I think - the music teacher at school decided I would perhaps do better learning an instrument that would be good for the school band. I think he had by then given up his dream of a school orchestra but since we already had a band, that held more potential to keep kids interested in learning to play an instrument. He dug around and found a French horn that wasn't being claimed by another music student and so, I began learning a third instrument then too.

Keep in mind here that my piano instruction did not continue on a steady basis during those three years. It was more or less a hit and miss deal most of the time. Aside from the fact I didn't like to practice the violin, or the French horn or the piano, with respect to the violin, it's my firm belief one must also have a lot more dexterity and a better "ear" for music to learn to play that instrument even half-way decently. Having better finger dexterity would probably have been helpful with the other two instruments and more practice might have shown some improvement in my playing abilities overall, but that just was not in my tomboy attitude at the time.

I had better fish to fry!

I did continue struggling with the French horn through 7th grade and the music teacher decided I was up to a par level where I could join the school band too - this would be the "marching band" and that was a very big mistake on his part! Walking and chewing gum at the same time have always been difficult for me. And, trying to march, in set patterns that one had to memorize, read music and try to play it too - all at once! Nope, no way was that ever going to be a part of my life and after 7th grade, the only instrument I continued to deal with - again, off and on - was the piano. I switched teachers yet again, this time to Mrs. Hayes, whose husband also happened to be our school superintendent and she was just a very sweet lady, so nice, complimentary to everything I tried to do, but to my Mom's chagrin, she seemed to pay little attention to enforcing the "time" factor of producing music. Therefore, I didn't seem to "get it" when it came to what speed this or that note should have. A quarter, half or full note? Who cared? Certainly not me!

I had, when I look back on my musical ventures, a bit of a delusional side, leaning towards grandeur! As a kid in elementary school, because I had memorized how to play "Jesus Loves Me" -with both hands, no less, I thought I could be the Sunday School pianist. WRONG! In high school, I thought I had advanced enough that I could play the piano for the entry march into the school auditorium for our weekly Monday morning sessions - simply because I had managed to learn to play the "Toreador's Song" from the Opera, Carmen, in the 3rd grade THompson's book of piano instruction. WRONG again there! I hit more wrong notes than one can possibly imagine and was an absolute nervous wreck about trying to play the piano in public too - another small factor I didn't take into consideration when I tried out for this honor!

Why then I got the notion in my junior year of high school that I felt I was qualified to become our next illustrious church organist is then truly beyond me when I think back on that move! Other than the fact I was a really smart aleck brat who thought she knew EVERYTHING apparently! But in my senior year in high school, the church council did award me the position of serving as organist/choir director which I did for a full year until they were, luckily, able to find someone much more capable. That wasn't a hard search either for them, I'm quite sure. Humility wasn't apparently an emotion I had much of a grip on back then! But optimism sure ranked high within me.

Moving on to the historic event of today - that being the funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford -almost every article I have read, every reporter who has spoken on the TV news the past few days, as well as many of the politicians who have spoken about President Ford at the various ceremonies in honor of his life, his work, have all referenced that he was regarded as a "healer" at a time when America most needed a person with just such qualities.

Now, because I grew up with my grandfather, who was a staunch democrat as well as a very strong believer in organized labor (especially the United Mine Workers Union), the only Republican, actually to this day, the ONLY politician I have ever felt was really an honest person, was my Dad's younger brother, my Uncle Arch, who was heavily involved in county politics (Republican, of course) and served as County Commissioner for a number of years, later as County Prothonotary and even ventured as far as to run for the State General Assembly back in the mid-fifties too. President Kennedy had been, still remains to this day, as my idol, my hero - regardless of the stories we all read now about some of his exploits, I still believe he was a great man. President Nixon, now that was then, a horse of a different color as I never liked him as vice-president, had even less respect for him after he became president either.

When President Ford first took office, and one of his first moves then was to pardon Nixon, I was at that time, livid. I thought this was grossly unfair and also, believed this was a move orchestrated too at the time Ford was approved to become Vice-president and later, the top official in the country when Nixon resigned.

Thirty plus years since that era, I have to agree with the reporters and their assertions that Ford was a great healer, just what was needed back then. Indeed, he was that! I have to confess that even when he was President, aside from the pardon episode, I really never could find anything else that I disliked about him. I thought very highly then, as I still do today, of his wife, who I think was perhaps THE MOST admirable First Lady EVER! She was attractive, polished, articulate - all good qualities for a "First Lady" to have, but she also always had an air about her that seemed to say "I'm just me, a plain person, like just about everyone else" and in retrospect, I think President Ford was cut from the same type of fabric there.

He always seemed approachable, not better than anyone, no airs about him, just a decent, good, honest man! Maybe it was this "down-home" quality I saw in him that reminded me a bit of my uncle that, although back in the 70's I would never have admitted it then, I actually liked and admired him very much.

Now, perhaps you see my tie-in to the optimism of my musical ventures to President Ford and accepting him as having been a very straight-forward thinking person, to the irony in the quote posted today from President Bush.

However optimistic I may have been about my own abilities, however much my optimism may color my opinion of President Ford's term in office, I don't think I have quite enough optimistic spirit in me though to ever regard President Bush in that same vein.

But then, isn't there a line about hope spring eternal in the human breast and isn't hope a lot like optimism? I'm working on that issue, but there just might not be quite that much hope, that much optimism left within me these days.

4 comments:

Skittles said...

I just wanted to give Mrs Ford a big hug today and tell her how much I loved her and what she did as a person in the position of First Lady.

Mike said...

When I was in school, very young then, I was in awe of the other kids who could play instruments. I didn't really learn to play until I was in my 20's and just learned by myself. I found I could pick up songs just by listening to them at that point. More practice and I was asked to join a band which lead to a very short musical jaunt lol. I still have 2 bass guitars that I bought when I was in my 20's.

Gene Bach said...

Musical instruments are great...as long as they have strings. LOL! I can play the mandolin, the banjo, the guitar...I think those all have strings...and I've played in two bands. OK, it's bluegrass so maybe that's not REAL music, but it's OK for a hillbilly like me!

I play the harmonica too, but that doesn't have strings so I can't talk about it. hehehe

Linda L Rucker said...

Jeni girl, tried my hand at piano when I was very young. Never could get my tow hands to work indepentedntly of each other, which is probably why I never got the hang of it and guitar is completely out of the question. I do good to tie my shoes!