Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 12 2011

Music and contentment.

There is a competition in the universe called IBLA. What the letters stand for even the website will not tell you. Within it, hundreds of incredibly talented musicians compete to win the “grand prize”, which is awarded to a handful. From those, a smaller handful (five) are selected to go on an international tour, playing for various audiences.

On April 5th, five IBLA musicians played at Carnegie hall. On April 11th (today), the same five played for an audience of let’s say… 30, at Lakeside High School in Lake Village, Arkansas. It was free. I, along with about 10 other TFA teachers from around southeast Arkansas, went.

There were three pianists (a Czech woman, Finnish woman, Russian manРall likely younger than 30), an accordionist (younger), and a cellist (17. 17!!) The Czech woman, Simurdova Zuzana, played Chopin (and won the Chopin award, as I find with some research) andРand what can I say about it? Within about 45 seconds of her piece the only thing keeping me from crying (literally) was that I was surrounded by people that I knew and may have looked at me with concern. I debated allowing myself to cry tears of happiness. This is insane, but I am by no means kidding.

My life in recent weeks has surfaced. Remember the huge long analogy I wrote a few months ago about treading water? About having a sight-line hovering just hardly level with water? If I were to continue that, I’d say now I’m lounging in a bikini on a hardly-reliable one-person raft. It won’t last long, it’s probably from Wal-Mart, but no one cares when you’re floating in water staring at blue sky. Not for the time being, anyway.

I think having such a hellish (and I very deliberately use that harsh word: hellish) few months has allowed me to find this recent contentment to be the equivalent of what bliss would have been in my pre-TFA days.  Today my lesson ran itself with me wandering about the room as I chose. Yesterday I spent many hours sitting on a faulty Delta dock in perfect company just breathing and watching waves, getting sunburned. My kids met their first concrete realistic goal on their last cold prompt.

I have an overwhelming sense of feeling grounded. I just realized that I have roots here, in the Delta. Tiny living things growing out from the soles of my feet and into the hot ground. I love where I have ended up for this first year of school, my 23rd year.

While watching these musicians, I also found some deep deep ache, something that only comes out when I have no way of foreseeing it. I realized halfway through a piece that today is the 11th, which means yesterday was the 10th, and I found myself counting on one hand how many months it will be until my mother has been gone for two years: four. Four months and dear God I do not want to meet September 10th this year. I do not want all these new relationships and new job and new maturity level and new car and new confidence without my mother here to see it. I do not want to turn 24 without a voicemail from her singing something off pitch and completely ridiculous. But it’s going to happen.

I’ve been sick for more than a week. Allergies or sinus infection? I’m seeing David Sedaris on Wednesday, and potentially have plans for the next four weekends. This year. I don’t understand where it has gone.

3 Responses

  1. David Sedaris! That will be amazing!

  2. Auntie Sue

    She knows you have all these new relationships, a new life, a new maturity (?) level, a new car, but she also knows you have always had confidence. You make decisions that are just right for you like being in drama, writing, Bld a Bear, singing in a band, writing, choosing Western, Huge, being an RA, writing, traveling, teaching, writing. And you are going to continue making your own choices and crafting your own life. It’s the lesson she taught you and you learned it well–you have to make your own way–you can’t rely on others. LINA: YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! She sees that.
    p.s. Ily. Gn. Gby. Swta.

  3. Wess

    Your analogy about water is perfect. If I were in it, I think I’d say I’ve just joined a swim team, and am trying to figure out how to make the water work for me, instead of against me. And when I get water up my nose nowadays it’s less life-threatening and more like the price I pay to improve at a sport I think I might love.

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