In which we go to the symphony

We are just lately back from an outing to the symphony — the kids’ first time going and my first in far, far too long — where our local orchestra performed Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf as part of its children’s concert series. We had a minor snafu when it turned out that Tertia isn’t heavy enough to keep a theatre seat from folding up on her (!) but once she was safely installed on my lap instead, all was well. There’s something very fun about seeing a performance in a room full of children! And all of the wiggling and murmuring and in-seat or aisle dancing that would get you some dirty looks at an adult concert were just evidence of the audience’s very honest engagement with what was going on. It was great fun, and Anselm and Perpetua left the theatre talking about when we could go to another one.

I had half-forgotten what a difference it makes to be right there where music is being made, not listening to it through the mediating factors of digital compression and electronic speakers. The brass was so warm, the strings so lush, the cellos and the kettle drums so menacing. A recording approximates that — and don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for recording tech — but it doesn’t replace it. (I think vinyl records are supposed to be closer to the sound experience of live music? I don’t know; I haven’t heard a real vinyl record more than once or twice in my life.) Live music has a presence to it that’s easier to feel than to explain. I’d missed that without even realizing it.

Beyond that, it was just really nice to get out and experience something new in our city; although we’ve been here nearly four years, the timing was such that we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what there is to do. I conceived Tertia just a month or two after we moved, and between a difficult pregnancy and a single vehicle that my husband needed for work, it was hard to get out and do things with Anselm and Perpetua. And then Tertia was born just a week or two before the first lockdowns back in 2020 and, well, you know. Between pandemic restrictions and inertia, we just kind of lost the habit of going out. My parents visited us after Christmas for a few days and I realised that it was the first time Tertia had ever been left in the care of someone who wasn’t her parent. Which is wild! (She was fine; I was an unexpected wreck.) Anselm and Perpetua had babysitters and went to church nurseries well before their first birthdays. But when you have a baby during a global pandemic… things change, sometimes in ways you don’t notice until much later.

All of which to say: it was a great experience for all of us — for the kids to see a real orchestra, for my husband and I to remember that events and attractions, um, exist — and I think there will definitely be more concerts in our future.

How to buy a piano in thirty easy steps

1. Be stuck in a chair, nursing. Idly browse kijiji on your phone because breastfeeding is so, so boring. Happen across an ad for a piano. Note the reasonableness of the price.

2. Reminisce about how nice it was to grow up with a piano in the house. Imagine how nice it will be for Anselm to do his piano practice on a real instrument instead of the electric keyboard. Imagine spending afternoons playing hymns and folk songs while your (cherubic and in-tune) children sing along.

3. Send the ad to your husband, subject line: “I want this.”

4. Phone conversation with husband: Should we buy the piano? Conclusion: Reach out and see if it’s still available.

5. Call the number listed on the ad. Talk to “Mike”. Mike can’t tell you if the piano is available since he’s not in the office. He’ll call you back within half an hour.

6. Wait.

7. Phone call from Mike: the piano is available. But can you remind him what the ad said the price was? Put the phone on speaker while you look for the ad. Why doesn’t Mike know this?

8. Kijiji app won’t load. Grab the link from your email’s sent folder and read it back to him.

9. Oh, “Midsize piano rich sound half price for piano and delivery” means that delivery will be half-price, not that delivery is included. Ask Mike how much delivery is. Mike tells you how much of a deal half-price delivery is, no other shop in the city will do it, you know a piano weighs four hundred, six hundred pounds and you’ve got to use the ramp and the sledge, and by the way, how many stairs do you have up to your house? Say you’ll call him back in half an hour.

10. Phone conversation with husband re. updated price: Should we still buy the piano? Conclusion: Mike seems… odd, but sure, let’s do it.

11. Phone call with Mike: Yes, you’ll take the piano. Confirm all-in price for instrument and delivery. Ask when he can do the delivery. Well, maybe tomorrow, maybe sometime in the next week or two, he’ll have to check and call you back, he’s not in the office right now.

12. Rearrange the family room to make room for the piano. Vacuum behind the bookshelf you just moved. Comfort Tertia, who is scared of the vacuum.

13: Phone call from Mike: miscellaneous thumping and crashing noises, muted yelling of men at work in the background. Hello? Hello? Phone call is apparently from Mike’s pocket. The call disconnects. You still don’t know when the piano is coming.

14. Husband is home from work. When is the piano coming? You can’t answer. How are we supposed to pay for it? Well, you’re not quite sure. You didn’t pay him already, did you? No, no. We’ll pay on delivery.

15. Eat dinner. Put the baby to bed. Start Anselm’s piano practice.

16. Text message from Mike: “. 7uhj”. Respond “?”. Receive reply “Who’s this”. Be in the middle of writing your answer when your phone rings.

17. Phone conversation with Mike: Man he’s busting his butt for this job all day and his f’n phone’s sending messages while it’s locked, I mean how does it even do that, well anyway where do you live again? Yeah, maybe tomorrow, he’ll let you know.

18. Resume piano practice. Mama, when is the real piano coming? You don’t know, buddy. Soon.

19. Start getting the children ready for bed. The phone rings. It’s Mike! Mike is right around the corner so he’s going to bring the piano now. What’s your address again?

20. Your husband runs out to the ATM for cash. Perpetua is too excited to eat and wants to stand at the window until the piano comes. Convince her to come back and finish her snack. Time passes.

21. Your husband is back from the ATM. Are they not here yet? No, not yet.

22. Get the children in their pyjamas. No piano. Start reading their bedtime story. No piano.

23. Phone call from Mike. What’s your address, again?

24. Two minutes later: phone call from Mike. Sorry, long day, what’s your address, again?

25. Finish reading bedtime story. Pray. Resign yourself to the fact that the children absolutely will not go to bed until the piano comes.

26. Oh, there’s a truck! And it’s backing over your lawn. There is a lot of inching, adjusting and yelling. The piano is coming! Briefly consider stapling your children’s pyjamas to the couch as a means of keeping them in place.

27. Explain to Mike that even though the family room is right there, the clearance is too tight and the piano will have to take the long way around: front room through kitchen through dining room through back hallway and finally through the family room to its far wall. Maybe this is why the previous owner kept her piano in the front room.

28. Realise that whatever Mike’s phone habits may be, he is a bonafide piano-moving savant. The piano goes all the way through and around the house with nary a hitch. He has been doing this job for twenty years and is in complete control of the instrument, his teammate, and his tools. Thank you, Mike.

29. Everything is in place. Mike and his associate leave with the cash, and a bottle of scotch for a tip. Notice the handy way the piano shows off the slope of your floor, which you hadn’t noticed before. Wrestle the kids to sleep.

30. Joy:

2020: the year that was

2020, amirite? I feel like that date is going to end up as a shorthand for all of us who lived through it: for coronavirus and cloth masks and toilet paper shortages and social distancing and online church and political scandal and civil unrest and case counts and quarantines and the anti-mask lunatic fringe and allllllllllll the rest of it which, frankly, I’m pretty tired of talking and thinking about. The pandemic fatigue is real. We don’t need another post about why 2020 was kind of a dumpster fire, so here is another take — the things from 2020 that I want to remember as good and lovely. They may have been harder to see, but they were there.

First of the list, of course, is Tertia’s birth — this little bobobean filled a hole in our family we didn’t even know was there. She just slotted right in, and it’s been a joy and a wonder to have a baby in the family this year. She is a cheerful, amiable little person. We are so lucky to have her. And we were lucky in our timing as well — she arrived two weeks before her due date, which meant that we just missed out on the first wave of hospital restrictions. The first pandemic closures, while scary, also meant that instead of taking two weeks of paternity leave before going back to work, my husband was able to work from home for about her first twelve or thirteen weeks. It was a real blessing to have him around for the whole of that newborn stage.

The big kids — as we mostly call them these days — have been growing like crazy. We started formally homeschooling this fall as Anselm entered grade one. Perpetua is doing junior kindergarten and it’s been amazing to see how far she’s come with her letters, numbers, and early math just since September. Recently I did some organizing in the basement that left me with a spare large tub, which meant I could finally get all of our craft supplies in one place; it’s so much easier to do art stuff with them now. Anselm has lost two teeth and Perpetua makes me crack up on a daily basis. I’ve been very glad that they have a close relationship, especially this year when it’s been so difficult (or flat-out prohibited) to hang out with other kids. Right now they are being chess pieces and also in a high-jumping contest and a sack of javelins is apparently also involved (?). I don’t try to understand, I just enjoy.

It was a good year for baking! I learned to make sourdough and challah, sometimes on the same day, and I am happy to report that Sheryl, my sourdough starter, is now nine months old and still going strong.

I also made three birthday cakes this year. A strawberry bunny with strawberry icing for Perpetua, a London Fog cake for my husband, and a rainbow sprinkle cake for Anselm (the interior was yellow cake, with vanilla icing). Now, the ‘rainbow’ inside layers were really only discernible under a camera flash, and I learned that next time I should spring for the good old artificial colours instead of the naturally-derived ones… which apparently do nothing. But it was still delicious!

The decorations? Also strawberry.
The London Fog cake: chocolate cake, earl grey vanilla icing, and salted caramel drizzle — all from scratch!
The colours essentially baked themselves out; without the flash they were just variants of yellowy-brown. Oh, well.

It was a productive year for crochet. I completed 5 baby blankets, 6 dishcloths, 1 shawl, 1 decorative throw, 1 Christmas stocking, 1 hat, and 9 squares for my Eastern Jewels blanket. I also got about six or seven rows in to the 16 octagonal motifs for Eastern Jewels, and started a child’s scarf in the last few days of 2020 which I should finish tonight or tomorrow. It’s a fun, very ruffled self-drafted pattern and I’m looking forward to sharing that with you.

Because we bought our house late in the year in 2019, 2020 was our first full year here, and our first chance to experience the garden in the spring and summer. It was a delight to see all the flowers that came up in the spring, and wonderful to have such a nice big yard for the children to play in. The largest flower bed was extremely overgrown; we dug it out in the fall and are planning to put in raised beds for growing vegetables come spring.

What else, what else? I blogged some, I wrote some, I had a poem published, I read some wonderful books, and I continued to enjoy and achieved some personal goals in my favourite game. The recovery from my c-section was uneventful. I discovered, after nearly a year of living here, that there is a pull-out cutting board under one of our kitchen counters. Broadly speaking, we have been healthy, and even happy.

2020 had a lot of challenges. It’s been, at times, scary, frustrating, and lonely. But there are always things to be grateful for, even amid the other stuff. And I am grateful.