Canon in Nostalgia Minor
I saw the flashbacks coming.
Last night, I sat down next to Jenn in the school auditorium for the fifth and sixth grade orchestra concert and looked at the blue one-sheet program, and there it was on the grade five playlist: Long, Long Ago. I know now, thanks to the innernets, that this tune was written in 1833 by Thomas Haynes Bayly and was one of the most popular songs in America a decade or so later. At the time, though (last night, before the concert, that is – not the mid-1840s), the only thing the title put in my head was the tune. And frankly, not a very good version of it, but the one we played in band when I was in fifth grade.
I remember practicing in the den of the house where I grew up, sitting on a desk chair, head down to look at the music propped on the inside of my open instrument case. I didn’t have a music stand, because honestly, my effort didn’t warrant laying out the extra cash. I mean, as often as I could get away with it, I’d have a book in there with me during my half-hour practices, so I could read for a minute, play for two; read for two minutes, play for three.
But somehow, the Long, Long Ago tune stuck with me anyway. (Maybe because at the time, I thought it was soooo harrrrd! Which, again, could probably be traced to the fact that I didn’t really try that hard.) Also on the grade 5 list were Ode to Joy and Go Tell Aunt Rhody. All three must be on some universal learning curve playlist because those were also what we played in band when I was that age.
Kelsey’s sixth-grade orchestra didn’t play anything that hit a similar nerve, but I did find myself getting oddly choked up over their version of Pachelbel’s Canon. Part of it was because that song always reminds me of The Wonder Years episode “Coda,” the one about Kevin’s piano lessons and his quest to play the Canon better than Ronald Hirschmuller, and just about anything that puts me in Wonder Years mode makes me hokily nostalgic.
So by the time they start playing it, I’m already a little tight-throated, seeing my daughter on the stage dressed up and smiling and whispering to her friends and sitting straight like the band teachers always said to. It’s one of those moments when she looked heartbreakingly grown-up, even though she’s only 12.
This morning, then, she was up and ready for school a full TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES early. In equivalent terms, this would be like me doing my Christmas shopping this afternoon, it’s so unexpectedly out-of-whack
Of course, it’s because they headed off to sixth-grade camp today, and she was (surprise!) excited. Three days, two nights in the woodsy woods and cabins with her classmates. It’s a standard thing, I think, in a lot of Ohio school districts.
We went to Camp Manatoc up in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park when I was her age. (And yes, for those of you with scorecards, it has been about 26 freaking years.) I remember learning to use a compass, looking at pond water through a microscope, some pretty easy hiking, canoeing with Adam, refusing to even TRY to fish using a cane pole, and a dance in the meal hall on the second night.
Three things I remember from that dance: being scared to ask a girl to dance >shock!<; seeing Saturn’s rings through a telescope the science teacher had set up outside; and this song being played.
A quarter-century down the road, I wonder what my daughter will hear when she remembers.