Tag Archives: music

Here come those Crickets Again!

You hear them don’t you?    As evening falls: brreet, brreet, brreet!  The broken up, rhythmic brreeting, at once comforting—it happens this way every year and there’s something to be said for consistency—and disheartening: summer is ending!  Fall is coming!

Don’t confuse their song with the spiral-sounding, siren wailing of the cicadas up in the trees: a long low, buzzing, unbroken, getting higher, higher, more and more shrill, as if someone is swinging a pygmy cat with a kazoo around by the tail—then it stops.  Silence.  Then it starts again, low to high to silence.  Cicada song goes on for the better part of the summer anyway; you hear it during the day.  I associate it with heat and humidity, because that’s what summers are like where I’m from.   Cricket song comes at night.  Brreet, brreet, breet!  And you know just what they mean:

Brreet, brreet, brreet! Grab those last rays of summer, those last days at the shore, over the grill, over drinks with the far-flung relatives whose kids don’t have the same vacation schedule as yours so you won’t get to see them unless someone’s willing to travel on really major holidays.  Brreet, brreet, brreet!  Grab the back-to-school supplies in a hurry: remember how last year you couldn’t find a single pencil sharpener anywhere in your county?  Make your kids try on their old school clothes; make up a bag for good will; find those lunch boxes and see if nothing can be done about the stickiness in hers or the eerie smell in his.

Brreet, brreet, brreet!  I think with nostalgia about Chester Cricket of The Cricket in Times Square, the wonderful 1960 children’s book by George Selden (illustrated by the incomparable Garth Williams, who also illustrated E.B. White’s Stewart Little and Charlotte’s Web among others).  Chester is a country cricket, who—due to a series of picnic snafus, winds up living in the Times Square subway station—where he is befriended by the resourceful, liverwurst-loving Tucker Mouse and the honorable, if wily, Harry Cat.  Chester, adopted by little Mario Bellini (whose parents own the newsstand inhabited by Tucker), is soon discovered to be a deeply talented musician, able to whip off symphonies any time he is inspired, giving one impromptu concert after another.

I’m nostalgic for Chester, not only because my mother read me the story so many years ago, but also because it seems a very long time since I read the story to my own children.  My littlest, Theo, my baby boy, will turn nine at the end of this month.  Funny, when the crickets start singing each year, that’s often my reminder to start planning his birthday party.

Theo at three with a special friend

Theo was already a big fan of Tucker and Harry when I read him Cricket.  He was also interested in music, so the story meant even more to him.  Chester could touch people with the power of his song, even though he was so tiny and, in other ways (being a bug), fairly powerless.  I think, being such a small boy at the time, Theo liked the idea of music magnifying the person playing it.   I think he still does.  Though it can be tough sometimes to get him to practice, he’ll frequently remain at the piano long after he’s finished what I’ve asked him to play.  Theo can spend hours banging out dark, heavy chords, rain-like runs and arpeggios that roll like waves.

“Did you like that?” He’ll say.  “That one was called Midnight.”  Another is Halloween.  Theo’s musical compositions tend to be minor and haunting with names like the above.  (Lately, he’s been working out the Harry Potter movie theme by ear.) He loves playing, even if he’d rather do it only when the mood strikes.

“The only reason you’re making me practice,” he roared at me once, “is because you like how it sounds!”

The truth is that I do like how it sounds though, of course, that’s not the only reason I make him do it.  I make him do it because he’s good.  He’s got something that he’ll be able to do long after he’s done playing basketball and tennis and all the other sports he loves.  Something he can do when it’s raining or when he wants to impress someone or just feel good playing on his own.  Something beautiful and consistent and reliable.  Like the crickets.   And there they are again.

Brreet, brreet, brreet!   Your baby is nine!  You’re not getting any younger either!  Brreet, brreet!  There it goes, another beautiful summer!  Brreet!  Here it comes:  another fall.

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To Dance Again: Confessions of a Masochist Part 3

The Second Class

It’s today.  I’m actually so excited about going to class, I can’t think straight.  Okay, my knee already hurts and I have a butt spasm because I didn’t stretch enough after running yesterday.  Not to mention that I fell down half a flight of stairs last night, landing on my hip, under the full laundry basket I’d been carrying.  But this is why God made Ibuprofen.   Medicated, caffeinated, I’m standing strong and ready to go.

Like Murphy’s law, both kids (aged eight and ten) are home sick today, but I persuade my sweet, supportive husband to telecommute for the first part of the day.  I make everyone lunch, stick it in the fridge and go find my new black tights.   (Oh, yeah, gorged on Thai food yesterday at a friend’s birthday celebration but who’s looking at my thighs??  Not even me.)

And now that I’m gathering my dance clothes, a word on footwear.  After the first ballet class, I noticed that the balls of my feet felt bruised.  It had been so many years, it took me a moment to remember why.   From my father, I inherited a strange (painless in itself) foot condition which involves the absence of a few ligaments.  This has been confirmed by X-rays.  You’d only notice if you decided to squeeze my feet; you’d find that they’re not tough and thick like, well, feet—but bony and too-pliable, more like hands (no thumb, though; they look human).  I solved this issue—once it was diagnosed—by wearing pointe shoes to dance whenever I could.  (Not a hardship; pointe shoes were required at all times in the ballet companies I danced with.)  Pointe shoes have hard boxes and kept my feet nicely—bound is the only word for it.  Regular shoes also work, as do sneakers, but regular ballet slippers lack support.  When I was in my very young, pre-pointe shoes days, my little feet were padded enough for none of this to bother me.  Later, I was prone to stress fractures.

So, for today’s class I bring a pair of pointe shoes with the shank torn out.  They still look like pointe shoes, but the sole is soft so I couldn’t dance on pointe even if I wanted to.  I worry about what the other moms will think.  Am I showing off? Being a “little trina?”  No.  This is about physical maintenance and longevity.  I won’t wear down the bones in my feet just to avoid coming off like a princess.   Aren’t we all too old for such judgments anyway?  I put on the shoes.  Tie the ribbons (which I must have sewn on about sixteen years ago.)  It feels good.  The shoes say, We’ve got ya old girl.  Go ahead and dance.   I say, I remember you guys, and catch a glimpse of my feet in the mirror, a gleaming flash of pink.  I flex and point my right foot just a little and it feels like ballet—in a good way.

Some of the other women do make comments: Wow, you’re brave, and the like.  I feel a desperate need to explain—you don’t understand: it hurts less like this—really! But I don’t need to bother.  It’s a very live and let live crowd.  If living means reliving a long-retired version of yourself, so be it.

The knee pain isn’t so bad this time.  From the start I remember not to care how turned-out I am, to focus on enjoying the music, being as indulgent as I want in terms of épaulement (defined in Part 2), milking those lush crescendos.  The class goes longer today, I’m told.  We’ll be doing more turns and bigger jumps in the center.  I’m wary of the latter.  The idea of leaping, given my knee issue, is one reason I ruled out dancing again up until now.  But after the adagio, I’m up for the waltzing pirouettes, adrenaline providing a nice analgesic.  Grande Allegro (big jumps and leaps) is next.  I go for it.   Soon I’m doing it: a real grande jeté!  If I squint at myself in the mirror, or better yet, don’t look at all, I can imagine sailing through the air, just as if nothing’s changed.

But when it’s time to try the combination on the left side, I grow sober.  Sense comes into play, overriding Ibuprofen.  No, we won’t go this direction, won’t do something as foolhardy as a big leap landing on my left leg—home to my long-suffering left knee.  I mark the combination, skip the steps but join in for épaulement.  I’m taking a bold step, dancing again like this, but I know my limits.  Most of them, anyway.