This morning I became a Facebook friend with a musician. Which made me pause to remember the days of my “yute” when I, too, could call myself a musician. I remember when my parents bought my first trombone, a used Conn with a slide so out of line that I could hardly move it. I was nine.
Which made me remember my first brushes with music, as a kid when we lived in Arizona. I started school there in Ajo and my first grade teacher was Miss Helmi Nylon. She and my second grade teacher, Miss Irma Merrill, and my mother sang together in the church choir. I don’t want to say that I was a pet but I got selected to lead the rhythm band at school and wear an Uncle Sam costume. It was my introduction to music, and I liked it.
I never thought of that time so long ago when I stood before my classmates with a baton in my hand and led them through “My Grandfather’s Clock” as a life changing moment. But maybe, in a way, it was. Maybe it gave me a little edge, a bit of confidence, a brief experience that I still carry among my prized memories.
If I hadn’t been exposed to music in the first grade, perhaps my parents would have bought me a football when I was nine instead of a trombone. If I hadn’t become a professional musician, I wonder if poetry would have seemed like such a natural medium for my writing when I got around to it three decades later.
Maybe I’m overthinking this, but teachers do have a way of being there at so many of those moments when we are still wet in the mold, uncertain about so many things in our future, experimenting with who we are and who we want to be. Who’s to say, when some apparently trivial incident occurs, that it might not become a life changing moment.
Thank you, Miss Nylon. Thank you, Miss Merrell. You are both gone but will never be forgotten.
Anyone else want to share teacher memories that have stuck with you?