Sunday, September 2, 2012

Peons, Peonies, and Pianos

On August fifth, I posted this on facebook:

You know how lots of people say "I really wish my mom had made me practice the piano more"?

Well, I just called my parents and left a message:

"Hi Mom, Dad. This is Gail. I just want to let you both know that I forgive you--Dad, for paying for all those piano lessons, and Mom, for making me practice. Even though it means I have been released as primary chorister and called as the primary pianist, which is the easiest and most boooooring calling I can think of."

Kids, let this be a lesson to you: Defy your parents. Refuse to practice, ever again.

In other words, I pouted.

Well, really, I grieved. I'd had all these plans for how the kids were going to wow everyone in the primary program. They were going to sing two-part harmony on the hymn "Choose the Right." (I taught senior primary the alto line.) They were going to sing "I'll Walk With You," a song about being kind to those with disabilities--while doing ASL-based signs. I'd entertained visions of a spiritual show-stopper.

It also felt like a demotion, too, since I was still in primary--just behind the piano.

Now, I'm sure this experience will convey all kinds of positive lessons. Humility, for one thing, and obedience, for another.

The problem with growing experiences is they're uncomfortable in the moment. I'm thinking about C. S. Lewis's metaphor about God stretching a believer into a palace rather than a "decent cottage." The renovations are painful, but ultimately worth while.

A few days later, I had this conversation with God:

Gail: I feel like a machine. I show up, I play what they tell me to play. I don't need to practice. How can I magnify my calling when it's basically a binary "on/off" switch?
God: Not whining anymore would be a good start.
Gail: Oh. Right. Um, sorry.

So I decided to go straight. "No more whining!" I decided. I was really good, too--for a month.

Then today Sam woke up with a nasty cough.

"Oh, drat, he can't possibly go to church today!" I announced. "And, sweetie, I know how often you had to stay home during the last two years because I had primary callings. I think it's my turn, now that I'm replaceable." (Of course, I'm not all that replaceable, because there are sadly few people in the ward who play the piano. Which was my mother's stated purpose in making her children learn. Drat her foresight. This is why I also posted a notice on facebook offering free piano lessons to anyone who would agree to concentrate on church congregational singing.)

Naturally, we were already running late, so my sub options were limited. I sent a text message to the primary president, and then called my predecessor, who had already left home. I sent him an email, which I quote below with minor modifications:

Hi _____,

You strike me as the kind of guy who might be geeky enough to own a smart phone. (That's a compliment; after all, Jon and I both own smart phones.)

I know you just barely escaped the crushing python of primary peonage, but I have a little piano problem. See, Sam woke up with a nasty cough this morning and I'm going to stay home with him. I'm looking for a substitute....

I'm trying to analyze the possibilities:

1) You don't have a smart phone ==>> you don't get this message until it's too late ==>> no reply is necessary.
2) You don't check your messages in the middle of church, no matter how boring be the lessons. Very noble of you! And in this case, likely to pay off ==>> you don't get this message until it's too late ==>> no reply is necessary.
3) You check your messages, but then pretend you didn't. Feign ignorance. That's between you and your conscience, though I confess I'd be tempted to do the same thing ==>> you don't "get" the message until it's "too late" ==>> no reply is necessary.
(See? Not only will I not judge your duplicity, I will get the same result either way and will charitably assume either outcome 1 or 2.)
4) You get the message and rise heroically to the occasion ==>> you send me a reply message and then sub for me ==>> I thank you profusely and say all debts are now squared.
5) Regardless of your receipt of this message, Sister West waylays you.
--5a) You manage an excuse and escape. Congratulations. I'll try to imitate your technique.
--5b) You are sucked back into substitute serfdom. My sympathies. On the other hand, I thank you profusely and say all debts are square.

I know it would work better as a flow chart, but I'm not
that geeky. Well, actually, I am, but this message is already over budget, timewise.

Whatever happens, I did make an attempt to warn you. My conscience is clear! I'm off to perform all manner of disgusting parental grooming rituals on my tuberculous toddler. See? Wouldn't you rather be substituting in primary?

Gail Homer Berry

Does it count as whining if I'm laughing? Exaggerating for effect and poking fun at myself? Crowd source time. What's your opinion?

Regardless, I'm back on the wagon. Rather than spend my time pouting about peonage, I will think about peonies. Peonies are pretty. They are the state flower of Indiana, plus my own favorite flora. I used them extensively at my wedding.

Doubtless I'll use them in my Heavenly mansion someday.

I'm in my happy place with my peonies.

Maybe I'll even try draping some over the primary piano.


Jon said...

Poor Gail. I hope it gets better soon. You have my sympathies.

Carolyn said...

I think the message was more entertaining than whiny. But more importantly, did it work?