Monday, August 03, 2009

And it's not even mandated by Hallmark!

I know that Mothers Day and Fathers Day are long past, and to be honest I find both days annoying. Why is there never a kids day? I mean we have Youth Day but that's actually in honour if people who did stuff and... stuff...

But lately I've realised that they both deserve some pretty sincere appreciation, so here goes:

My mother has taken her 4 degrees off to Oxford for a 2-week conference and left me to keep an eye on things and feed my father (who for some reason has a cloud of bad kitchen-karma. He tried to roast potatoes once when I was a kid and I can still taste the ash in my mouth...). I don't mind cooking, I've been helping out with it ever since my mom came up with the idea of letting us cook to earn extra pocket money (it was that or weeding the garden) or as punishment (which is a bad idea unless you want to be fed mashed dog food. I don't get mad, I get even).

But I hadn't realised how much changes when you have to be home to let the maid and the gardener out, or have dinner ready before Tai Chi, or have packed lunches ready and waiting in the morning, or make sure the laundry doesn't pile up. And somehow my mom manages this while working full-time, including weekends. It's pretty impressive and I must admit I will be supremely relieved when she comes home this weekend and I can sleep in safe in the knowledge that I can stay at the lab until 8pm to get my work done.

As for my Dad... we've always been a musical family. My parents met in a choir after all! I have a clear memory of my mom trying to teach me to play the recorder when I was 4 (which was quickly replaced by a weekly music class when she realised that we just liked making a noise) and when I was 6 my brother and I (and a bunch of friends) were allowed to join the church choir.

when I say 'allowed' I'm not kidding! The choir was run by a gentleman (no other word for it really) who had won scholarships and all kinds of things and been in some of the bigwig music schools in the uk before moving to Joburg. We sang Latin and harmony and all kinds of stuff. I think I may have been reading music before I could read words.

Anyway once teenage rebellion set in and my brother and I left the choir my parents stayed and we saw the choirmaster from time to time. We were always taught to be respectful to him (I still feel awkward referring to him by his first name) and we liked him because he used to pay the kids when we sang at weddings! I think it was the princely sum of R2, which was a lot to me considering I got R4 a week in pocket money (and made dinner for R10!). Am I giving away my age?

As the choirmaster was once an awesome singer and has now settled into his eighties, my father decided that he should give a concert. Did I mention that he's an organist in his spare time? He plays at a mega-huge church most of the time and at our church occasionally. I was the only kid at school who had an organ at home... So he and my dad picked a programme, practised, retuned the organ a gazillion times because the weather kept making it go funny and so on.

As my mother is off in Oxford, I got the enviable task of turning pages. basically that means you sit on the organ bench and follow the music and when you're a few notes away from the end of the page you turn it so that the organist (who is already playing with both hands and feet as well as pushing buttons all over the place to change which pipes get used) an keep going. Sometimes if it gets tricky the page-turner gets to push the buttons as well. I had a mildly stressful piece where I had to push the button that is RIGHT NEXT to the one that you must NEVER push (the one that turns EVERYTHING on and blasts the poor people in the congregation into oblivion).

And I realised two things:

  1. It's been years since I've read music and even longer than tat since I read music of more than one line (viola has one, piano has two (left hand right hand) and organ has three (left hand, right hand, feet) and organ with choir tends to jump from 3 to 5 every now and then). It was really difficult to follow the music! The mega voluntary at the end was particularly bad where I was relying on sort of being right and hearing a 'NOW!' if I was late.
  2. My dad is pretty darn good. There was one piece that he was literally just about tap-dancing on the pedals while playing on the keyboards like a maniac an I was stunned by how good it was.

So Ja... I guess it's time that I appreciated that my parents have done a lot more in their lives than produce the two of us, and that they're pretty darn talented in their own right.

And now I must go back to the lab so I can get home in time to make dinner before spinning class!


The Mutant said...

My lord, you come from talented stock... I feel so humbled - my parents just shift dirt from one side of a dusty paddock to the other, or something like that.

And you have a maid and a gardener? I know that's probably not unusual for your part of the world, but the very idea is so decadent here.

Did you ever get the hang of the recorder though?

po said...

Wow what talented parents. Hey, I could bump into your mom while she is in Oxford, and we shall never know...

sarah said...

yeah its always a bit humbling to realise how much work people do for us.

my gran managed to raise 5 kids while being the head mistress of a school... pretty damned busy.

i dont know if i could ever do that!

Kath Lockett said...

Your folks sound wonderful. I guess 'cooking' might fall a fair way down the list when they have so many other talents :)

Helen said...

Mutant: It's not that unusual here to have a maid and/or gardener. We have someone in the hosue two days a week and a gardener once a week. The gardener is totally Jesse (one fo the dogs) best friends, she followed him around for the whole of monday squeaking her squeaky toy. And I never liked the recorder much but I played other instruments for about a decade and a half, before I decided that being in 3 orchestras, a band and a choir was probably not the best idea for my academic ambitions. And my teacher was a scary temperamental Polish guy... now I play guitar hero!

Po: Yes, we would never know... although I doubt she'd be anywhere near the biology/lab side of things. I do have a friend doing her doctorate in ecology at Oxford though, so you probably know people I know and so on...

Sarah: I know! i don't think I could have kids, i'm too selfish. It's just weird to think that they did stuff with their lifes before we were around...

Kath: and yet we whine when dinner's not ready on time! They are pretty cool, although having 3 relatively strong (and different) personalities in the same house can lead to some... interesting... altercations over things like how to fold socks. and try practising the viola when the organ's blasting away on one side while the brother's guitar is howling in the next room...