I love singing the arias of my youth. No matter where I am in my life, no matter my age, or what is happening around me, I can open my memory and access the vocal acrobatics that take me back to being a girl.
I stand on years of singing around the piano with my brothers and sisters, lessons from a full-faced teacher with a large gap between her front teeth, and finally off to boarding school, where all that love of music was nearly extinguished by a German voice teacher named, Madame Schinera. There were recitals, performances and pressures, plans to study opera followed by the Mozartium in Austria.
I sing the arias of my youth perfectly, as I was taught to do. I am a vocal gymnast doing double back flips to amaze an audience. A single melodic phrase can return me to all of that. I congratulate myself on my exceptional training. The money, time and effort invested, that stopped when I married, as abruptly as a car hitting a telephone pole.
I remember. I am transported, and always, without fail, wished I’d studied instead with a large black woman; a woman who wiped her hands on a threadbare dish towel; a woman heavy with kitchen smells and children. She was the teacher I sought, when I was too young to know what I knew. I wanted her large embodiment of spirit to teach me the blues, I wanted to find jazz in her bloodstream. I yearned for a musical mama with her feet in the dirt; not an academic, who asked me to measure classical tempo, like teaspoons of baking power in a centuries old recipe.
written February 13, 2008