The Recorder Incident

by Susan Kawa

Yea, verily, we were instructed by the mighty administration of Max's school to go forth and purchase a "recorder" for music instruction. This command was delivered by the most solemn and serious method known to elementary kids and their mothers. (No, not the stone tablet.) I refer of course to the School Memo.

We are taught early in our child's school career a healthy fear of the School Memo. Mostly we fear “never receiving” the Memos. Because in the event we miss one of these babies, our child will no doubt be emotionally scarred by a sentence of "staying back with the napping toddler class, while the other second graders (the ones with responsible mothers) go out for ice cream." It can take upwards of 10 years of therapy to correct the damage caused by one missed Memo. The conveyance of which, ironically, is entrusted to a six-year-old child.

Having previously undergone the appropriate memo conditioning, we now frisk our children daily, taking special care to check the inner lining of the backpack, and occasionally swinging by the local clinic for a quick X-ray. (A $10 co-payment is nothing when you're talking the emotional sanity of your children.)

But getting back to my story, according to the Memo, Max will apparently be learning the ins and outs of recorder playing this year in music class. Which is great, since that's the only instrument I know how to play. I'm especially dexterous with the "rewind" and "fast forward" buttons. And I'm pretty sure I have a recorder in the garage someplace, if it hasn't melted itself to some Britney Spears cassette in the Virginia summer heat.

It took a bit of determination, making my way through that garage, but my son's education was at stake, after all. I was determined. I never did find that little tape recorder, but I happened upon a pretty sturdy reel-to-reel, and figured it would have to do.

Dear Mrs. Kawa,

Though we're grateful for the cultural artifact you sent in for show-and-tell today, sadly, it is not quite what we had in mind when we sent home the memo about Music class. However, none of us here were terribly surprised at your creative interpretation, and we look forward to the melee next month when you answer to our request for craft supplies.

But to the point: Max still needs a recorder for Music. By which we mean a MUSICAL INSTRUMENT roughly 12 inches long, plastic, and sporting a mouthpiece and little holes up and down the front. We suggest you visit McMartin's Music Store, and we're begging you, please ask a clerk for assistance. We have taken the liberty of calling ahead, and they will be expecting you.

`````````````````````````````````````Mrs. M.

Ah. A musical instrument. Well, why didn't they say so? And who names a plastic flute thingy a "recorder" anyway? It's madness, I tell you. Madness! The clerk at the music store didn't know. That's the trouble with the world nowadays. People don't take pride in their work.

Armed with my son's brand new recorder, and feeling the sweet relief of a mother who knows her child's backpack is properly stocked, and there is less than a 10% chance of a surprise project due on the morrow, I made my way home. The recorder was a real hit in our house. Or more accurately, the convenient zippered case was a hit. Zip. ZipZip. Zip. ZipZip. Zip. ZipZip. Zip. Zip. ZipZipZip (Do you recognize the William Tell Overture in there?

As luck would have it, I soon discovered that the instrument in question might have more aptly been called an "eraser." Since that's what happens to one's brain cells when one is cooped up in a minivan with a kid who insists on practicing "Hot Cross Buns" all the way home. Another strike on the name (and if you don't happen to own one of these babies, you'll have to take my word on it) – no one would EVER want to record this sound.

I'll just never understand all this music stuff, I guess. Now, CRAFTS, that's an entirely different story. I know all about crafts and craft supplies. Do you suppose they mean AIR craft or WATER craft?

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