Monday, August 29, 2016

Rhymes with Orange


It’s Monday and the last day of my summer vacation. Tomorrow I put my shoulder to the wheel and start my 42nd year at The San Francisco School rolling. Always a Herculean effort and there’s a bit of Sisyphus in it also, as that great big boulder of work that sat on the summit last June rolls down the hill again in July and August. But it’s a small price to pay for the chance to live the glory of summer, both the days at the beach and the workshops with teachers.

It indeed has been a glorious summer. A week in San Francisco to let the end of school echo like the last ring of the Balinese gong and then off to those remarkable two weeks in Ghana, the pleasure of Spain again in spite of lost luggage, the joyful reunions in Salzburg with folks from around the globe and then 10 days of genuine vacation in Sicily without a single clapping pattern or Orff instrument. Then back to San Francisco for the always-stirring Jazz Course taught—oh joy!— in my own music room and my 65th birthday celebrating by taking the jazz students to the Jewish Home for mitzvahs and miracles. Then down to the Orff Olympics in Carmel Valley, 28 countries cooperating (not competing) and each won the gold, amidst the smoky mornings from the Big Sur fires. Off to Michigan for the A section of my life’s rondo, that summer paradise my family has returned to every year for some four decades. Swimming and hiking and biking and reading and game-playing every day with my two grandchildren in the center, fresh corn and tomatoes and barbecue and the nightly sunset over Lake Michigan. And then off to Toronto, another A section rondo in my Orff Course life, my six block radius on Bloor St., both new and familiar faces, an exquisite piano in a beautiful room in the Conservatory where Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman first brought the Schulwerk to North America. A perfect ending to a perfect summer and worth every bit of the general low salary, lack of status and dignity teachers are given in American culture. (Where’s your 10-week summer vacation, Mr. Big-Shot Businessman?)

And that brings me back to Monday, my sacred day just about my whole teaching career where I have it entirely to myself. Today is the hinge that swings the door between Summer and Fall, a time to try to file away the accumulated piles of papers and books and CD’s from the summer’s work and turn to the mountain awaiting the ascent of the boulder—school schedules, rosters, TB shots, emergency forms, meeting schedules, ordering materials, planning classes, meeting the new teachers and kids, greeting the old. Walking yet again down the same hall where my feet have trod since 1975, only now not passing my newly-retired wife in the hall hanging up art work. It will be different. But then again, it always is.

As for the title, I once had a student named Jordan who was on the edgy side of the behavior spectrum. Word has it he is now a pick-up truck-with-gun Republican. Once when we were camping with his class, we played a rhyming word game and I threw in the word “orange” as a joke, explaining that nothing rhymes with orange. “That’s not true!” Jordan exclaimed. “Really? Well, tell us what rhymes with orange?”

And to our utter amazement (and relevant to my experience today), he replied:

“Doorhinge.”

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