186. Your Mama Don’t Dance

I think I told you about how Digger got drunk at one of my sisters’ piano recitals. I haven’t told you about my own, though. When I was ten years old, my youngest sister (Courtney, five years old) and I were forced into piano lessons.

I’m not sure exactly how I had escaped doing it that long since my older sisters had been taking lessons for a while already. Now, you’d think with me being interested in music I would have preferred piano lessons over falling in the mud at soccer and other un-fun after school activities I was typically forced to participate in.

You’d think. But I didn’t want to do it, maybe because Claire insisted, and maybe because even my two picture-perfect older sisters–who went without complaint to ballet and gymnastics and even ballroom dancing lessons at the local Catholic school–even those goody-goodies complained about piano.

There’s also the fact that on weekends Digger would often drag me off to Remo’s house where they’d sit and drink beer and watch sports on television and I’d play with Remo’s guitars–so I’d known how to play the guitar since I was like seven years old, and thought of it as “my” instrument. This was before we started sneaking out to see Nomad play.

Come to think of it, I already knew a fair bit of piano from Remo as well, and I was reluctant (or afraid) to show that maybe I hadn’t learned to play the correct way, and that if it was wrong, that I would have to change.

Anyway, plenty of reasons to hate piano lessons.

The teacher’s name was Beaumont or something, but she told us to call her Madame B. (Digger always called her Beaujolais after a kind of wine and now it’s the only name I can remember.) She was not, in all likelihood, the world’s greatest piano teacher. She did have the distinct plus in Claire’s eyes that she lived close enough to our house that we could walk to lessons.

I don’t know if I was really such a music snob at that young age or not, but I probably was. Madame B’s claw-like hands shook all the time except when she played and she always smelled like the dust in her couches. Her couches had carved feet and lace doilies hanging all over them and looked like they were as old as the woman herself. We were probably more afraid of her hands than anything else–she could hook you on the shoulder with her claws if you made a mistake (or talked back).

Of course, remembering those lessons now it seems obvious to me that my mother had some kind of special rate going with Madame B, for two kids for the price of one or something, because it was just when my older sisters convinced her to let them quit (Lilibeth so she could spend more time practicing flute and Janine clarinet, which they both played in the school band) that Courtney and I were forced to go. We had our lessons together, too, side by side on Madame B’s big old piano, neither of us wanting to be there, and me in particular wanting to spend as little time as possible with my little sister and her baby piano-plinking fingers.

Like I said, a snob. We went once a week to Madame B’s and were forced to practice a half hour a day each at home on the badly-tuned standup piano next to the TV in the living room. That is, until our recital came up, when Madame B. had the brilliant idea to have the Marks siblings play a duet. Maybe Lilibeth and Janine had had a big hit with such a demonstration, I don’t remember. Now there was suddenly a kind of open antagonism between little Courtney and me, as we each thought the other would “ruin” the performance, and we each practiced our part fervently, trying to go faster than the other to make it look like the other was falling behind, etc. And of course, the sick thing is, the piece got better and better. About two weeks before the recital we began to like playing it together, and we went from war to truce to allies faster than you can say “Fur Elise.”

The day of the recital came, and Claire of course dressed us up, me in a little suit and Courtney in a dress of mostly white satin bows, and we trooped to Madame B’s house, where she threw open the parlor doors and brought in chairs from the dining room and kitchen and had folding chairs, too, arranged in a long gallery in the living room. The piano stood at one end, a side board with wine and cheese at the other end. All the current season’s students and their parents were there. After each student’s piece or pieces, everyone would politely clap, the respective relatives a bit harder for their particular kid.

The youngest kids went first and the show progressed to the older ones, but with me ten and Courtney five, we didn’t fit that plan, and Madame B. put us near the end. Now that I think about it, maybe it wasn’t really youngest to oldest, but worst to best, which often came out by age. It wasn’t really Madame B’s way to ever tell you if you were doing well. If you obeyed her she smiled and told your parents you had talent, and if you didn’t obey her she told your parents you needed to practice more.

The result of all this was we had to sit through quite a few lame little girls and boys, struggling through their simplified renditions of Bach or what have you, some of the slightly older kids, my age and older, plunking on through wobbly versions of the theme to “The Entertainer” and “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring.” But eventually our turn came, and Courtney and I got up there, and bowed to everyone (we had even practiced that part in the living room at home, with Courtney’s stuffed animals on the couch as the audience), and sat down and played. And at the end we stood up and bowed again and people clapped.

I probably would classify this as a happy memory if it weren’t for my parents’ reactions. Claire’s two comments were one to Courtney, an obviously condescending “That was so lovely, honey,” and one to me, about how much I embarrassed her by getting up there with jelly on my face. (From a jelly cookie, I assume.) I don’t know if this is memory or only what I wished I had done at that point–I reached up and wiped my face with the back of my good suit’s sleeve.

I then scampered away to find Digger and ask him what he thought, but the lack of enthusiasm or depth in his “Great job, kiddo” led me to believe that he’d been at the wine and cheese during our performance. Courtney shared my disappointment and we stopped being nice to each other after that. After a multi-day argument during which I went to bed without supper twice, I quit piano against Claire’s wishes (what could she do, drag me there in chains?) and that was the end of it.

I don’t remember what song we played.

(By the way, just for the helluvit…)


  • I’d be hard pressed to choose between Bart, Carynne and Ziggy. I think of Ziggy as another main character, though, so it would have to be a toss-up between the first two. 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    I agree with above, but I like Carynne because she made Daron stop going in circles and actually do something or at least talk. Bart would have to be second just because he is so chill compared to Daron’s worrying …Still like Ziggy as a character though.. i hope he does get a second chance in some way…..

  • tryslora says:

    I love Bart and Carynne because they are both what Daron needs so much of the time. But Ziggy hits my heart (and yes, I think of him as a main character, too, but if we’re talking not-Daron then it’s Ziggy for me). I can see that there’s so much background for him that we haven’t seen yet, so much going on inside his head, and so much space for growth… and I want to see it all happen, and how it fits in with Daron, and well, everything.

  • Emma says:

    Bart and Ziggy for me.
    Just because I think Bart is hilarious and I’d love for him to be my friend.
    And Ziggy because well, he’s made up of all these layers, and he just can’t seem to do things right. I actually feel pretty sorry for him and I kinda hope he gets a second chance 🙂 I guess I’d also like to know more about him and his past, he’s a little bit of a mystery.
    I’m not too keen on Carynne for some reason, but I can’t place why :/

  • Sara Winters says:

    I think Bart because he offers much-needed words of wisdom. And I’m pretty sure he’ll never cloud the discussion by sleeping with Ziggy.

  • Ann says:

    Bart for all the obvious reasons. Soggy a close second, though I’ve noticed we are getting less and less of Ziggy. I can’t stand Carynne, I don’t know why. If she disappeared I wouldn’t miss her at all.

  • Ann says:

    That would be Ziggy, damn spellcheck! Lol

  • Linda says:

    Ziggy gets my vote. I think he is really complex and he does care about D, he is just really insecure. (At least that is what I am hoping for). do love Bart and Christian, tho. I agree with some of the other comments…I don’t like Carynne and wouldn’t miss her if she were gone. I really didn’t like her getting involved with Ziggy since she knew Daron’ s history with him.

  • Songquake says:

    I want to hang out with Remo and Bart.

    But I don’t know why folks are so down on Carynne; I really like her, and especially like the way you’ve brought out her character (*cough* so to speak), developing her from this sort of silly schoolgirl-type (fangirl stalker) to someone Daron really relies on, who like the rest of them, is trying the best she can.

    • ctan says:

      Carynne, being slightly older, grows up slightly faster and overall she’s a more together individual than Daron is. 🙂 Also Daron’s ability to see her as something other than just a silly girl changes as the story goes on.

  • ed69 says:

    Bart, piller of solid best friend Daron needs to stay sane

  • s says:

    Actually the only character on that list I don’t like is Digger. Though I’m still miffed at Carynne for sleeping with Ziggy.

    My heart is with Ziggy all the way! I think he just can’t figure out how to get what he wants from Daron. He’s been carrying that torch for awhile (based on his chapter) and it just never seems to work out the way he wants it to, no matter what he tries.

    Come on Daron. Throw the starving dog a bone!

    • daron says:

      It’s just so hard to figure out when he wants ME and when he wants… something else. Control of the band, his ego stroked, etc… I’m learning, but am I learning fast enough?

  • Bill Heath says:

    “Other” Colin

    Yes, transformation is the engine of fiction. And transformation requires energy, often imparted by conflict, sometimes by evolution. But Colin is always there. He is an unchanging rock, even as much as Remo, perhaps moreso because Remo evolves.

    The narrative has two rocks – Digger, negative, and Colin, positive. And there is no way in hell I was voting for Digger.

  • daron says:

    I’d like to point out that this poll has been up for five years at this point and Digger still has zero votes. I’m proud of you all. Proud. *wipes tear*

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