Namine has been taking piano lessons from my mom for some time now. The Christmas recital was a less structured, free-form kind of thing. My mom described it in her letter to all the parents as an “open house format,” where the students could come up and play whenever they wanted.
If you’ve ever seen children play soccer, then you know they don’t stay in their positions. Every child runs after the ball. Consequently, my dad and I call children’s soccer “caterpillar ball.”
I expected much of the same madness at the recital. With no structure or order, I expected chaos to ensue. I was wrong.
The right reaction
As Namine and I sat in our chairs, waiting for 3:00 to bring the start of the recital, I noticed that the girl sitting next to us was staring at Namine.
Some people will try to be subtle about staring. A repeatedly sneaked glance (or so they think), and they turn away when they see you catching them in the stare. Not so for this girl. She just stared, as though Namine was a rare creature. My first thought, unbidden, was incredibly sarcastic: What, you’ve never seen a wheelchair before?
I’ve definitely reacted negatively to people’s behavior around Namine — especially if someone has the temerity to say something insulting. But I like to think I’ve matured in that regard, and I prefer to foster education and learning in place of bitterness and anger. Besides, for some people a wheelchair is a novelty.
I turned from my thoughts to the girl. “Hi,” I said, offering my hand in an attempted handshake. “I’m Paul. This is my daughter, Namine.”
Namine, in her excitement and anticipation for the recital to begin, had been oblivious to the girl’s unceasing stares. But she turned to the sound of my voice as I introduced myself, and she didn’t miss a beat. “Hi!” she said to the girl. “I’m Namine! What’s your name?”
The girl said nothing. She just kept on staring. Heard of manners, kid? I thought a little bitterly. Namine tapped me on the shoulder and asked why the girl wouldn’t say hi back. I shrugged, saying that some people are just shy. (While that is true, it would have perhaps been more truthful to say some people are just rude.) Namine accepted that, and turned her attention back to the front, where my mom was getting ready to speak to everyone. The recital was about to begin.
When the recital started, my mom stood up in front and explained the open house recital concept once more. Namine raised her hand and declared loudly, “I want to go first!” Immediately afterwards, children began to line up.
It was not the chaos I had assumed it would be. There were children of varying ages; but even the younger children — maybe even younger than Namine, but I can’t tell kids’ age by sight — stood in line quietly and patiently. It was evident to me that while my mom’s students enjoy the piano, it is also something they take seriously.
Namine had two short pieces to play, which she could do by herself or perform as a duet with my mom. She chose to do both as duets.