For the past 15 months, my daughter and I have rarely left our home except for safely-choreographed and masked walks in the neighborhood or a nearby park.
As life moves closer every day toward a remembrance of things past, especially in Hawaii, we have been slowly reemerging.
We are very lucky that my husband and my daughter’s other father (no ranking for first or second!) has been out in the world while I have worked from home and our 11-year-old poet has completed fifth grade through distance learning. Let me rephrase that: she aced fifth grade through distance learning, discipline, and a little more attention that I was able to give her since the pandemic began.
This past week we set foot on her school campus that is now her alma mater for only the second time since the pandemic began. We briefly walked around as the grounds were being prepared for summer school and were greeted by teachers, both of whom noted how tall our daughter had grown. It was an easy farewell for the time being as we navigate next steps toward finding the right middle school.
On our way home, I mentioned stopping by a little park with a small, stone amphitheater that is off the beaten track in the middle of Honolulu. We decided to forego revisiting that site for the time being. Going back to one place after waiting patiently was enough for one afternoon.
Our own home, which we purchased during the pandemic and which we hope to never leave, is in a different part of town. After moving to Hawaii seven years ago and working in the same high school as my husband, I changed jobs last October. I now work for a youth orchestra.
And I am thoroughly enjoying the changes while rediscovering parts of my life that have never left me even if they have escaped to some state of hibernation: writing poems that have needed to be written, becoming a more engaged parent, and amphitheaters, sort of!
The last time I played the bassoon in an amphitheater was many years ago, but it was quite the grand finale, or so I thought at the time. I had played in bands or orchestras for nearly a decade by the time I was making college plans. My bassoon teacher, a kind, wonderful, talented man told me when I was 17 that if I worked very hard, I could probably earn a living as a member of a small city orchestra and by playing at lots of weddings and other events. I had grander dreams. I was going to be a writer for Sports Illustrated or full-time journalist somewhere. My last actual performance was in a gorgeous amphitheater at a summer artists colony. To my astonishment, I was first chair. A young man, far more talented, should have been, but the conductor told me he liked my maturity! He even had all the first chairs stand and receive applause after my last concert. I knew I was leaving the bassoon on a high note!
Except I never really could get the bassoon out of my mind. Every time I heard one anywhere, I yearned. I never did become a writer for Sports Illustrated although I wrote tennis articles and my writing skills have served me well throughout my career. A few years before fatherhood, I invested some of my savings in a beautiful bassoon. My husband and I moved to New Hampshire so we could be legally married before our child was born. He received a professorship in Germany, and I stayed behind waiting for our daughter to come into the world. I started taking bassoon lessons for the first time in decades. Then I found out our daughter would have an extra chromosome the rest of her life. I stopped playing.
Extra chromosome or not, she is glorious! As a family, we lived in Germany and then Iowa before moving to Hawaii. I never lost the tiny piece of scrap paper with the telephone number of my bassoon teacher from New Hampshire. Somehow, it survived 11 years! For the past five weeks I have taken lessons again with my teacher over Zoom. The six-hour time difference is fine. What’s even better is the joy of rediscovery. Today I played an F major scale. The notes I have relearned increased to 11! Being able to play again a G note in the bass clef, holding it for four beats, even adding a little vibrato, is my version of stepping back into heaven, of finding a friend I could never forget.
I now am practicing from a book I found somewhere in our new home. Until I opened it today, I hadn’t realized it was purchased by my first teacher way back when, the kind, patient, inspiring gentleman who by some miracle is still helping me become a better musician.