From the official scrapbook of my life: Birth-High School. Melody is standing at the podium in the middle picture. And please notice Janine and my matching dresses as well as my amazingly sporty watch in the bottom picture.
I was the quintessential copycat child, much to the chagrin of my sister. My sister had been playing piano for quite a while, which meant I, of course, decided that I must play as well. Mom ran me through the usual responsibility questions: “Will you practice regularly? Are you sure you want to do this? Will you obey what your instructor says?” My answer was yes. So begins the adventure we put our wonderful piano teacher on.
Her name was Melody. She was an amazing teacher who valued punctuality, short fingernails, proper counting and timing, and excellence. At that point in my life I, in contrast, valued doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, not practicing if I didn’t like a piece, and having my free will go unchallenged. You can see where this took us.
Melody’s house was nestled in a nice neighborhood about 15 minutes away from our house in Kansas. Her front door was unlocked during lesson times. We would walk in, and quietly wait for her current students to leave before we walked in. She was ever so cheery on a regular basis. Positivity was her ally…which came in handy with frustrating students who wouldn’t practice…like me. There were so many times where I’d sit down at the piano in her studio and eek out my version of “close enough” on an assigned song. She’d gently lean in and with a chuckle say, “Cute, but no.” Then in the next moment, i’d be writing in the counts and counting out loud.
The subject of my practicing, or lack thereof, came up often in the parent/teacher conferences Melody had with my mom (or I’m at least assuming it did…). I’m guessing it was more of a widespread issue than just me, because at one point, Melody told parents that if their practice-averse students didn’t start working a little harder, she was going to drop them. I knew that I was in that category.
But then my secret weapon kicked in.
Melody didn’t drop me – for one reason: I was funny. So there’s that. 🙂
Since my parents homeschooled my sister and me in the days before it was broadly accepted, mom wanted to make sure we were always hitting the expected bars that kids our age were reaching in schools around us. That meant taking standardized tests every year alongside other homeschool kids. One of my most traumatic test-taking experiences happened on one of these days.
It was a test day like the many I’d had before. I saw the other girls in my age group that I was acquainted with, tried to make small talk, then picked a seat in the test room.
Let’s be real. The best part of these days is filling out the bubbles for your name. I always (and by always, I mean about 90% of the time) didn’t follow the rules and wait like instructed. I filled them out right away. Then the pangs of guilt would hit, and I’d put my arm over the test to look like I still hadn’t touched the bubbles, though seven bubbles now contained the letters of my name. When the teacher finally instructed us to put our names in, I’d darken the already filled in bubbles to look like I was playing along. That was as close as I ever got to cheating.
All of the fun times aside, I knew I was in trouble during one test day when we were already a section or so into the test – past the point of no return – and my nose began to run. Not like “oh look at that. A little snot came out.” Oh no. It was my nose full-on staging a mutiny. Wave after steady wave of mucus came out without stopping. Since the test was in motion, there was no getting up. No asking for help. No movement. Looking around was suspicious. I had no other option. The good news – I have always been resourceful. The bad news – I only had sleeves to work with. I tried to make my approaches to swipe away the charging mucus discreetly, but after I had used up a good portion of the real estate of my shirt cuff, there wasn’t a chill way to keep the now waterfalls off of my test. It definitely didn’t help me make a positive impression on the girls I was trying to win points with. But I still survived the test. And it was something. I think I still turned out ok. Haha.
Personality matched cow inspired activities. I blew up a rubber glove and Janine made butter.
We homeschooled in an era where homeschooling wasn’t quite fully accepted as legitimate. But we were surrounded by supportive friends and family who tried to provide educational experiences to make sure we were well rounded.
Someone at our church decided to provide us the experience of dissecting a cow’s eyeball. Seems pretty cool at first thought. But here’s what really happened: There was a clear container in our fridge for what felt like forever that had a floating eyeball in it. Even the most casual opening of the fridge for food grazing purposes led to being unexpectedly assaulted by the gaze of a singular eyeball floating in goo (I’m really proud of this sentence).
Finally, the day came. Janine no longer had to avoid the fridge for fear of the eye’s gaze. We pulled the eyeball out of the goo and began the educational experience. Mom dove right in. The knife drawer was opened, and the tools of choice were removed. It was time.
At this point, I thought that dissections were cool. I was as close to mom as she would allow. There’s no way I was going to miss any action. Janine was still not so sure about the empty stare of the eyeball, so she kept her distance across the island. The procedure began. Mom grabbed a knife and began the incision. What should have taken one swipe of the knife ended up taking much longer than expected. The knife proved quite dull, which meant many swipes with the blade and increasing downward pressure. When the blade finally made it through, a moment of panic ensued. The incision matched with the pressure meant that the eyeball’s lens made a dramatic upward exit. We all screamed a bit but recovered eventually in fits of laughter.
That day, we learned a valuable lesson. Don’t dissect with dull knives.
This post is dedicated to my mother, who graciously put up with homeschooling my sister and me for years. Who loved me through my moments of joy and utter nonsensical butt-headedness. I love you, mom. Happiest of birthdays!
Every kid these days has to experience a dissection of some sort during their schooling. When I took biology, I wasn’t exempt to this (though I wished I was). I had already lived through the sights and smells of several dissections that Janine did for her biology course, and I knew the day was coming when I’d have to do the same. Except that when you’re homeschooling, it’s just you and your teacher (mom in my case, who was a biology major in college and found dissections utterly fascinating).
One of the specimens we had to dissect was a fish. The poor perch came to us very much dead and soaked in formaldehyde. (Sidenote – I’m very much so a smell person. One of the worst parts of dissections was the unavoidable smell) Even after we had performed the necessary procedures on the poor fish, the smell lingered in the air. My usual play was to participate to the degree necessary, then leave the area to clear the smell out of my nose.
My mom has quite the sense of humor, though it isn’t always out on the surface. On this particular day of perch operation, mom’s sense of irony kicked into gear. When we got the call for dinner, we emerged from our corners of the house back into the kitchen, where formaldehyde still clung to the air. We sat down to eat. Everything was normal. Until I realized what was in front of me.
Tuna. Mom had made tuna.
Well played, mom. Well played.