Inevitable Recitals

There was the general murmur of a big room with lots of people in it. A gymnasium at the school my grandchildren attend, we were there to see a performance on a portable stage the school kept for just this purpose. Over the gentle rumbled of a hundred mixed voices, all conversing quietly as we waited for the show to start, you could hear the occasional sneeze, cough, and a couple of body noises we won’t describe too distinctly. These other noises were accompanied by an odor though, which wafted from row to row, occasionally stopping a muted discussion cold. “Oh, gross!” exclaimed one youngster in a stage whisper. She was silenced by a look from her mother. No doubt the child was there in support of a sibling, and no doubt it was mom’s idea for her to be there.

Cellphones and cameras were everywhere, even though the program hadn’t started, brilliant flashes of light strobed from time to time as attendees were capturing memories to be posted on Facebook or Google+. Modern technology; people wouldn’t even need to return home to accomplish the photo sharing feat, instead, just pressing a button marked “Share” to accomplish the task right on the spot. My presence at one of these functions was unusual. Having Multiple Myeloma makes one susceptible to invasions by bacteria and viruses, that weakness raised to a power of ten while on chemo, A thousand times right after a stem cell transplant. Victims of this cancer causes reclusiveness. But my doctor had just told me that my blood numbers were excellent; those of a healthy person, and so I was risking a case of whatever and came to watch my granddaughter perform.

The lights dimmed and the teacher, Mrs. Periwinkle, stepped into a single shaft of light projected on the stage. Her name really isn’t Periwinkle, in fact, I have no idea what her name is. We grandparents can be somewhat insultated from information like that. Anyway, she spoke in a voice which was totally inappropriate for the occasion, it was the almost whispered mumbling that people in childhood education always use. The ridiculous “indoor voice.” She spoke for a few moments and I didn’t hear a damn word she said.

“Can you repeat that for the audience?” I called out. The crowd tittered and Mrs. Periwinkle’s face reddened. She spoke again, this time I could make out one word in ten. This woman definitely had no career in gospel singing in her future. She apparently finished her mumbled introductions and then clapped her hands twice. That’s the very same gesture I make when my dog looked ike it was going relieve himself in an inappropriate place. A line of children, all dressed as vegetables single filed up onto the stage, washed in a storm of continual lightning flashed from family cameras. A piano began to play, demonstrating the severe need for budget increases to schools, at least enough of a raise to afford piano tuning. The piano silenced and Periwinkle blew a single note from something that looked like a ladies compact. The children all began to sing. I listened with pride, although I was trying to figure out if the kids were all singling the same song. They made a noise that sounded a lot like the background rumble of a school cafeteria with someone playing an out of tune piano off in the distance.

This went on for a few minutes, and as it did I noticed different parents moving from place to place with video cameras or smartphones held aloft and pointed in the general direction of the stage. Building more memories, for sure. The sound level dropped and a carrot took the spotlight and announced in a mouselike voice that “if you eat me I’ll make you see better.” A man down the row from me said he wished Mrs. Periwinkle said that. I laughed and took an elbow to the ribs from my wife. When I looked back to the stage, a broccoli was explaining that it wasn’t popular but it sure was healthy. Then a child behind me sneezed wetly on the back of my neck. I thought to myself that the next time I had to come to one of these, I would bring a spray can of Lysol disinfectant and wield it like a can of mace as self defense.

A few more vegetables stepped forward to announce their self-worth, no doubt crushing the self-esteem of the speaker. Then it was my grand daughter’s turn in the spotlight. She stepped forward as a tomato and explained that she was actually a fruit. “No you’re not, sweetie,” I called to her. “But he is.” and pointed to the Vice Principal standing aside the stage. The guy was actually wearing a school tee shirt and a pair of tights. My words brought a laugh from the assembled parents. My grand daughter grinned widely and waved “Hi Grampa!” she yelled. She stepped back and the group broke back into their cacophonic song jumble and two kids in front of me both broke into coughing spasms that totally drowned out the stage. I suppressed the urge to pull my own shirt up over my nose and mouth in defense of the cloud of biological terror hacked up by the mucous twins.

Then Mrs. Periwinkle took the stage again and whispered something unintelligible. The crowd of parents took it to mean that the show was over, so we all stood up and began to file toward the stage to retrieve our vegetables for the trip home. The Vice Principal was waving his hands, one of them clutching a number of sheets of paper. I think he wanted to hand out teacher awards or something similar, but the tide of parents washed over him and the stage to snatch up a veggie and carry it out the door. It was a dreamlike scene of some alien shopping experience. As I rolled my scooter to the door with a tomato in tow, parents smiled at me and made a path. “You were a very good tomato,” said one polite father. I responded that his rutabaga was pretty good too. “He’s a russet.” the man said. He wasn’t offended.

Later on, back home and snuggled against me, my newly peeled tomato fell asleep while watching television.