Monday, September 24, 2007

Jake's Learns to Jam

I had a dream last night that Jake was reading out loud from a book. A very advanced book. It was like listening to a sweet song.

In real life? He’s getting there. Slowly. He prefers to memorize and recite back. The kid has an amazing memory for sound.

On Saturday night, in Maine, we all played the piano. Jake was playing his one song he knows, the top part, Jeanine was playing the bottom part. I showed Jake how to riff on the basic tune.

Don’t ever ask Jeanine to riff, improvise or anything like that. When she was a student at Berklee College of Music and was required to do an impromptu piece on the marimba, I thought she was going to have a heart attack and die. She is a classical musician. One does not improvise in classical music. Ever. She spent hours listening to different pieces of music, famous musicians. In the end, she transcribed someone else’s riff and memorized it.

Not really the point, I said. I still remember her glare back.

Needless to say, it’s not strength of hers as a musician. So I stood next to Jake, and played a couple variations of what he was playing. Doubling notes, adding another, still staying in rhythm with the bottom line Jeanine was playing.

In less than five minutes, he was on it. And playing more complex riffs than I showed him, building, pulling back, and building again. I was blown away. I went over and started to play the top line, an octave higher. Ben picked up the hand drum that was there, and Zachary an old ukulele, with only one string. We were jamming.

Well, except for Jeanine who was sticking to the lines written.

I won’t mention that we were having so much fun we didn’t notice the place was filling up with smoke; one of the damn mantles on the oil lamps had caught fire AGAIN.


No harm, no damage. Windows were opened and the breeze cleared the place out. I’m going to remove all the damn mantles from all the damn oil lamps and that is final. The fire lady has spoken.

The kids crawled into bed, the rooms just off the living room, with doors open. Jeanine pulled out the old sheet music and started to play. Schumann. I went to tuck the boys in and after giving Ben and Zachary a kiss; I pulled Jake out of bed.

Come, sit with me. Watch your mom’s hands.

He curled up in my lap and we watched her play. The next song, truly German, was bleak.
Can you play something a little happier? Ben chimed from his room.

Jeanine laughed and flipped through the book… Minor, minor, minor… she stopped at Chopin.

I love Chopin, I whispered to Jake.

There we sat, in the golden light from the oil lamps (MINUS mantles), listening to Jeanine play the piano. It was easy to remember why I fell in love with her so many years ago. She had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. (still does.) Seventeen years later, she is just beginning to learn how to talk about her feelings- better late than never. But they were always there- and when she played the piano, I could hear them. I could feel them.

I don’t want her to stop playing ever again. We lost each other when she did. Almost irreparably.

And Jake… Jake gets it. He hears and understands music like words on a page. In my dream, I wanted him to be able to read like a song. To connect to words like I do, as I always have some kind of dialog going on in my head. I hear words, form images while doing the dishes, or driving the car. I beginning to understand he hears music.

Not words, but sounds and combinations of notes and rhythms that express feelings.

Jake’s reading is still a concern. He has memorized every book in our house- a feat that in itself is amazing. We’ll keep working with him.

And in the meantime, I’m going to go buy him a piano. Because after this weekend? I understand what language he speaks fluently, beautifully.

The same one Jeanine does.


Blogger j said...

That was a really nice piece to read -

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

what a great post.....

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was reading in high definition...truly beautiful

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

I 4th that! Beautiful! Thank you for the wonderful visual and warm feelings from that piece. What a talented family, all playing their own kind of music, so perfectly together. Love you guys!

9:10 PM  

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