Friday, December 08, 2006

Feeling Groovy, a tale of two music teachers

Upfront warning, this post has the potential to be a very un-Christmaslike post. If you are one of those people that thinks everything this time of year should be in the holiday spirit with kindness, go ahead and hit the “Next Blog” button up top.

Still with me? Leif has two favorite songs right now, Jingle Bells and Feeling Groovy. I am pretty sure the kids will be singing Jingle Bells, with bells for their holiday school party. I can’t wait. (Leif’s version of Jingle Bells goes something like this… “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, HEY!” repeat) Feeling Groovy is a kind of weird addition, but after playing a Simon and Garfunkel compilation, the song stuck on him. Now you put on any Simon and Garfunkel cd and you will be graced with squeals for “Groovy song!”

Both of these songs conjure up childhood memories for me. The first one, Jingle Bells, goes back to when I was in kindergarten. I had started piano lessons earlier that summer. My kindergarten teacher knew I was in piano lessons and asked me if I would like to play a song in the annual Christmas pageant. I jumped at the chance to perform. My mom talked with my piano teacher, Mrs. Connoly, who I remember balking a little about how this would usurp her lesson plan. I quite possibly might not be ready to “properly” play Jingle Bells in time for the pageant. But she agreed to teach it to me, reluctantly. She was a crotchety sort, but I did like and respect her.

The day of the pageant arrived and in my tote bag I carried my show and tell item, a Frosty the Snowman snowglobe and my primer piano book that held my music to Jingle Bells. I decided to go down the slide that day after arriving at school. I climbed the long ladder, got to the top and my tote bag fell out of my hand. Crash. I was devastated. Not only was my snowglobe broken, but my sheet music was sopping wet. I went in crying to my kindergarten teacher who assured me that my music would dry by the time of the pageant and that I could tell everyone about my snowglobe at show and tell. Still I cried and cried. My eyes were so red for the pageant.

The pageant time came, sure enough my sheet music was dry. I walked up to the piano, sat down and played Jingle Bells. Awww, the end. (Of the nice, happy holiday story part of this entry.)

The flip side of the story is Feeling Groovy. If Mrs. Connoly was my nice music teacher, Mrs. Peacock was her antithesis. Mrs. Peacock was my elementary school music teacher and the single person in the world that I can truly say I despise still to this date. There are very few people, if any, other than Mrs. Peacock, that if I ever happened to come face to face with I would likely tell her exactly how I felt about her. She was an awful, miserable person. She was small and mousey with brown, straight bobbed hair. She was never happy. I wouldn’t say that Mrs. Connoly was an overly happy person either, but it was different. She was a prime and proper French woman who instilled respect naturally.

Mrs. Peacock was a young woman. My guess when I was in 1st grade was that she was in her late 20’s. I could fill this blog with stories of Mrs. Peacock from every single year of my elementary school existence. My mom, who was always either my sister’s or my room mother, knew her through the school. She laughs now to hear my sister and I speak of her with such extreme rage. She knew Mrs. Peacock wasn’t liked and used to comment about hearing her scream in the classrooms at the kids, but said she never knew it was *that* bad. It was. Music class was not fun. For our annual play productions she always picked the popular kids over and over to play the lead speaking positions. Every year I tried out with hope and belief in my heart I would be selected for a speaking part and never once secured one. It was a popularity contest with her and I am sure my speech impediments didn’t help my case. But I do remember truly wanting a major part of a play. I was often some animal in the background who might get to dance or flutter across the stage, and *never* had a sanctioned costume.

When I was in first grade Mrs. Peacock came in and said we were being prepared for our spring concert where the first, second and third graders all got together in the auditorium and sang to the rest of the school during the day and then at night with the parents watching. This was a huge deal every year. I was introduced to the song Feeling Groovy when it was on our list of songs we would be learning. Most of the songs were songs we, as kids, knew and enjoyed singing. There were murmurs about “why are we singing this weird song” in reference to Feeling Groovy. I remember Mrs. Peacock telling us we were singing it because our parents would just light up when they hear their kids singing one of their favorite songs. She beamed. We sang the song at the concert and I remember looking out and looking for any parents beaming at their favorite song being played. (I knew it wasn’t my parent’s favorite song… my mom was listening to Donna Summers and Saturday Night Fever and my dad was listening to the Rolling Stones and The Cars.) I didn’t see it. She lied to us I told myself. I asked my parents that night if it was their favorite song and they said no, but it was a nice song to sing.

I like the 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy). I really do. But when it plays, I am plagued by memories of Mrs. Peacock.

Because I can’t let this post die without portraying exactly how awful this woman was, here is one anecdote and then I will stop there.

One day in 2nd grade, I was in music class and she was talking. I put a Kleenex (it was unused) in my mouth and was swinging my head around making the Kleenex fly around my head, making my friends around me laugh. I remember her devil eyes seeing me, squinting and seething and shooting me with laser beams. Yes, I knew I was doing something I probably shouldn’t be doing and I should be paying attention to her (truly it was unlike me, I didn’t normally make waves in class). What followed then was a scream from the top of her lungs, my name. I looked at her and removed the Kleenex from my mouth. “Do you know how so disgusting you are? You put that nasty Kleenex in your mouth and think it is cute. You sicken me,” she bellowed. She could have stopped there, but she didn’t. She added onto the end, “Knowing your mom I am sure she just allows you to be a disgusting little child and do things like this all the time, but I do NOT in my classroom.” I was heartbroken, she was talking about my mom. I could deal with her yelling at me, but criticizing my mom as a parent crushed me and ruined elementary school music for me from that point forward. My classmates all stared at me with their jaws dropped. Did they agree with her? Did they think I was a disgusting person? The tears welled up in my eyes, but I refused to let them flow. I also refused to sing the rest of the day, week, month and after that very rarely did I open my mouth in music class. I may have opened my mouth (usually when picked out of the crowd as “not singing!”) But she could not force any noise to come out.

Thank goodness for Mrs. Connoly... who countered some of the peacock's nastiness and therefore my love of music wasn't completely scarred.

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