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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Scenes from childhood



Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen Op.15.No.7 (Scenes from Childhood), specifically Träumeri (Dreaming) is a piece of music that sends me into a happy, quiet place. Turn up the volume, close your eyes, and listen. You’re probably familiar with it.

But it’s quite unlike my own childhood. Mine was a household of movement and bombast. Eight children, and I was the youngest. There was a lot of talking, argument, clearing of dishes, banging of pots and pans.

And not only did we have eight kids. When most had grown up, moved and gone on to lives of their own, we had foreign students live with us. At one time we had nine students from other parts of the world (China, India, Thailand), besides my parents and me. Listening to four Thai boys and one girl chattering away in singsong indecipherable words around the kitchen table was a daily practice. Then there was the 80-year-old PhD student from China. She was a character and a half, but she was quiet.

Mom played the piano at least once a day, usually noisy pieces. Not like this bit of gentleness. You’d think she would have needed the tranquility in the midst of the bombast.

But, on the other hand, maybe her nimble fingers needed to vent. Maybe she wanted to scream! She was a concert pianist who cooked and did laundry for ten people, for goodness sake. And she had been an only child. Was her personal childhood concerto more like Schumann’s? Then as an adult in a house full of noise and confusion, she yelled with her fingers up and down the keys?

In spite of all that noise, or who knows, maybe because of it, I am a pretty quiet person. So maybe this concerto really is fitting for me, if not my childhood. It’s definitely what I want to hear as a 50-year-old woman.

Portrait of my mother as a child that stands on Lesley's piano in our house

12 comments:

"Angeldust" said...

Fascinating how our chidhood has a way of staying "growing old" with some of us...

Ginnie said...

Those are very intriguing thoughts about Mom, Ruth, and how she played the piano...and what she played. Hmm. Something to ponder. I wonder if noise ever bothered her? It's funny, but I have no recollections of that, if so. I know she had long Quiet Times but was she truly quiet? With all the reading, etc., was she ever able to calm her mind? Questions I even ask myself....

It does appear that YOU have learned how to calm yourself. Good for you.

Rauf said...

how strange we have been commenting on each other's blogs at the same time

Rauf said...

its my favourite picture Ruth, I love it, seen it before. have very old tape of Robert Shurmann, not sure of the name.

had two different lives in my childhood. outside it was exciting full of incidents and happy memories, friends and occasions. Inside it was depressing. i did not mix two of them. My family knew all my friends but none of my friends knew about my father's atrocities on my mom and sisters.
i grew up defending them. Perhaps that gave me some confidence to deal with life. Very strange Ruth, i remained ignorat about many facts of life. Still i do not know what gays are, been waiting for the movie 'broke back mountain' My friend Priya explained recently and i forgot then and there.

Mrs. M. said...

Wow, two immediate thoughts simultaneously-

1. I play my emotions of the moment. Mom could always tell what my day was like based upon what music I played in the evening. Even now, at 40, the piano is my medium to purge.

2. I have G'ma's Schumann book. I've played this piece at quiet times. I think I'll get it out to regroup during my busy week!

Ruth said...

Right, Angeldust. And it gets rekindled at unexpected times.

Ginnie, you're right that Mom had quiet times. Wouldn't it be nice to sit with her and ask many things now that we think of them?

Rauf, what amazes me about what you wrote is how children have a HUGE capacity for survival, including psychologically. I can't imagine facing what you faced at home, and living a different reality outside. Thank God you were full of love and respect for women, even when you were a child. All of that shaped you, it's really amazing.

Mrs. M., well that's interesting that you play what you feel. It makes sense. Play the piece once for me. I have finally gotten to the place where I want to start collecting some music and play Lesley's piano while we have it. I almost never play it, even though I played on Mom's Steinway almost every day while growing up.

rachel said...

Thanks for creating that contemplative quiet space in my day:)

lesleyanne said...

that is such a beautiful photograph, of grandma.
i don't think i even knew that you had so many exchange students living with you! i only ever really knew about DeeDee. i'd love to hear more!

[[i'm glad you're writing more]]

Ruth said...

You're welcome, Rachel.

Lesley, it was a busy time. I went from a houseful when all 8 kids were home, to just me and g'ma and g'pa, to a houseful again all through high school. Sometimes I wished it weren't so; wanted g'ma and g'pa all to myself. Didn't want to share my house with strangers. I look back now with gratitude at the richness of my life then, and the open generosity of g'ma and g'pa.

rachel said...

I never realized there were that many either. I always pictures 1 at a time living there. I love Dad's stories of Wee Rot (how do you spell?) He flipped Dad's car!

Ruth said...

Rachel, his name is Wirat, and I can't spell his last name. :)

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