The year was 1969, and I was entering Junior high, now called Middle school, as a 6th grader. That year girls were wearing bell bottom, hip hugger jeans, peasant tops, and stringy, macrame belts with brightly colored beads. Having just graduated from wearing suspenders to hold up my skirts, these new styles were more than cool and very exciting. This was to be Junior high!
It was a whole new world. We had something called Homeroom in the mornings and the periodic changing of classes throughout the day. We had Home Economics in a big room with little makeshift kitchens. And, most exciting of all, we had lockers! Lockers came in two parts, a long skinny bottom locker for your coat and clothing, and a small square top locker for your books. The top lockers were stacked in twos, one for you and the other for your long-locker neighbor. Somehow, I was always given the highest top locker, which meant that I couldn’t reach it, especially in 6th grade; but I didn’t care. I put my books in the bottom of my long locker and ignored the teasing from my taller classmates who could easily outreach me and readily let me know. Twenty-something years later, my Dad was working at my old Junior high and I got to revisit those lockers in the sixth grade wing. They hadn’t been changed and I realized just how little I really was. It was encouraging to see that I had outgrown even the top locker. Not so encouraging to realize that my seven year old son had, too.
One of the best things about Junior high was the music program. No longer plagued to learn finger holes on a plastic flutophone, we had now graduated to actual instruments and I was ready! The thought of carrying an instrument case as I walked to and from school would be momentous. Thinking about the instrument I wanted to play and the thought of how big the case might be was a little daunting, but I felt that I could work it out. I thought I was ready. I thought I was able. I thought I wanted to play the drums.
Yes, the drums! I loved, still love, the drums! The drums give a sense of energy! They make me feel ‘up-beat’. Get it? Alas, it was not to be. My dreams were squelched by Mom and Grandma Moon, who lived with us. It seems “girls” did NOT play the drums back in 1969. I didn’t really understand why, but I was a fairly easy going kid and figured carrying a drum back and forth to school might be difficult. (I later realized that I’d only be carrying a drum pad, which seemed much more manageable, but too late for me to argue about.) And so I moved on and agreed, to play the flute. I didn’t particularly like the flute, but it had a nice compact case and it came in fun pieces that I got to put together.
I soon learned that the flute was not an easy instrument to play. Learning the finger holes was fine, I’d conquered those in my flutophone years. Getting sound out of the thing was a beast. Seems you had to rest your bottom lip on the mouthpiece, stretch out your top lip in a horizontal line, make a small hole between both lips and blow. My Mom and Grandma Moon could do it. I think even my little sisters could do it. I could not.
In my weekly flute lessons with Mr. Scanelli, I did my best, and hid the fact that I had a mute flute. There were five girls in the class and I realized that I could fake it. I knew what my lips had to look like and where my fingers needed to be and it worked…almost. One day, during practice, I forgot to pay attention. We were playing a lively song and I was enjoying myself, bouncing with the music and moving my fingers for their assigned notes; so much so, that I forgot to watch Mr. Scanelli.
It happened suddenly and without warning. Silence. And there I was, bouncing and with my fingers flying all by myself. Mr. Scanelli was not amused. I was told to either learn to get a sound out of my instrument or quit. I chose the latter. I didn’t want to be a flutist anyway, so to me it really was not that big a deal.