Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fish Story

What did we do before videos on phones and Youtube? Our instinct to capture and share life’s surprising and memorable moments would have to go the artistic route, distilled in language or painted images or organized sounds or choreographed dances or film. But to witness an extraordinary moment and grab it on the spot simply wasn’t an option— we could only hold it in our memory.

Well, today was my fish story about the one that got away. Believe me, I anticipated it would have been worthy of film and did my best to arrange it. But it was hard enough to talk to all the teachers, kids and parents involved, arrange the transportation and the car seats, get the emergency release forms and execute the plan with an injury sustained one hour earlier in the staff-8th grade basketball game. My friend who has been showing up everywhere all Spring to film the music program couldn’t get away. It was the last day of school and everyone else was busy. I did bring my camera, but knew I’d be playing piano and someone else would have to film. But I’m ahead of myself here.

The short story is that last Friday I sang some twenty “happy songs” from the Great American Songbook with my nonagenarian friends at the Jewish Home for the Aged. When I told them that I was teaching these songs to preschool and elementary kids, they were both impressed and a bit dubious. So I decided that even if it was the last day of school and absolutely insane to throw one more thing into the mix, that I would invite four particularly animated girls—two five-year olds and two eight-year olds—to come and sing for a half an hour. And so I did.

When we arrived, only Fran was in place, so I called the girls over and said, “Let’s warm-up and go over the songs while the others are coming.” We sang one or two songs and then sure enough, some ten other residents came wheeling over. So we started again with Five Foot Two with two of the girls doing the motions they created. 94 –year old Cyril came over and joined in, the girls on either side of him in his wheelchair, and I quickly handed my camera to Fran to start filming.

And that was the one that got away. Cyril’s animated face, great singing and motions picked up from the girls were a wonder to behold. Simply one of the most joyful moments I have ever witnessed. The girls went on to sing Ja Da, Mares Eat Oats, When You’re Smilin’, High Hopes, Skinnamarink, Side by Side, The Sunnyside of the Street— and then continued with ­She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain, all with motions and with every resident smiling ear to ear. By now, it was time to get back. When I told the girls, one of the 5-year olds said in dismay, “But I thought we were just warming up!”

I got them back in time for the last day of school closing ceremonies and when I had a moment, took a peek at Fran’s video. It lasted for 20 seconds and then my memory had run out. On the camera, that is. The image in my mind is forever.

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