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Ah, puppy bliss! There's nothing like being loved by a puppy!
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Monday, August 15, 2005 When I was 17 I spent the summer in Siena Italy, at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana. It was a glorious experience for which I was entirely too young. I was invited at the last possible moment, after an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, who sponsored a student orchestra for the conducting master classes taught at the Accademia. I got into the school. They offered me a scholarship plus free summer in Italy. Of course, there are never enough violin players, so it’s not really surprising. And I, like the typical high school graduate, was all about GettingOutOfHere. A retelling of that summer, my own comming-of-age story, would take up a week’s worth of blog posts. Fear not. The task is beyond me at the moment and, in fact, I may never get around to it.
What prompted me to mention this at all was this travel article in the NYT. It’s a suprisingly long article about touring Siena. I wanted to see if the city had changed very much and more to the point, if Mr. Johnson noted any of the things I considered important. He did pick out a few of my favorite highlights, though I don’t remember the hills being that breath taking - in the literal sense - but then, I was 17 with the boundless energy of youth. I do remember that I walked everywhere in a pair of cheap wooden clogs and had fantastic leg definition by the end of the summer. I loved to hear the wooden soled shoes clack against the ancient cobble stones. I loved everything about Italy and almost nothing about the people I was with - who were of a particularly snotty artificial wannabe ‘N arteest mien. More than anything else, that summer showed me that I was playing in the wrong back yard. It’s tough to be in a grand thrilling place with a lot of completely incompatible people, but I wouldn’t have missed that experience for all the tea in china.
I was surprised that Mr. Johnson didn’t even mention the Accademia, since they give concerts all summer. I recall the orchestra gave performances every Friday night and I remember one thrilling afternoon when all the brass players at the school set up on two elevated cross walks that spanned opposite lanes feeding into the Campo and played antiphonal brass music, the rich bell tones echoing off the ancient stone buildings in a heavenly swell of sound. Perhaps he’s just not a music lover, but Siena could never mean anything to me without it’s rich store of music. Besides - St. Catherine is the patron saint of music - and Siena is her town!
But what really shocked me was that for a mere $448, maybe I could get the very room I slept in, with 3 other fiddle players, at the Hotel Continental on the Via Banchi di Sopra. I’ll admit, I loved the hotel we stayed in and was constantly full of that feeling of being in Count Ugolino’s palace - but whew! What a waste that the only time I’ve ever been in a real luxury hotel I was too young to know it. I wonder where the house the orchestra players now?
Anyway - this is not the post I thought I’d be writing after the Big Reunion weekend. It may, though, be appropriate, since Oldest Daughter of Favorite Cousins leaves for college in 13 days and is as anxious to be Out In TheWorld as her Cousin Bess was, lo those 35 years ago. As for the BigReunion - it was not all that big this year. Perhaps 60 people made it, but none of the North Carolina cousins came, only half of the Connecticut cousins, nor could my favorite W.VA cousins make it, either. Even some of the local kin were on jaunts to far flung places. Happily, though, most of the cranky cousins stayed away.
For some reason, everyone I love, who is part of the getting ready for the reunion club, was feeling tense about it this year. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the knowledge that several of the top generation had died this past winter, or was in very poor health. BD’s generation are the great grandchildren of the couple who’s wedding anniversary this reunion celebrates. They can still remember the clack of the slamming screen door as they dashed in and out of the kitchen of the big house at Midway. They knew TheSisters, ancient ladies clad in black dresses with white lace collars, who sat in rocking chairs and nodded admiringly at each other’s progeny. Since his generation is now mostly grandparents, there are a lot of freeze-tag playing 9 year olds who haven’t a clue who Aunt Emma or Cousin Mary were.
Whatever the cause, the resultant edginess was most unwelcome and almost universal. Fortunately, the core group of Favorite-est Cousins gathered at our house in the afternoon and we quickly got into the river, where all vestiges of tension were swept away by the rushing incoming tide. What a glorious afternoon - broad sunshine, water with multiple layers of cool and warm that shifted in swirling currents, happy talk, motor boats pulling tubes at the end of long ropes. We haven’t any babies in the family right now, so moms are free to join in the deep water conversations, but there are still some teens, so one must be careful about being grabbed by the ankle and ducked underwater. The joke was on me, though, because Capt. Jack insisted on me holding him the whole time we were in the river. Labradors tend to worry if you are in the water - they want to retrieve you unless you get a stick and wiggle it just below the surface. Then they’ll swim after it and dive for it till you get tired of the game and give up the prize. Our other dogs will wade ashore, run out onto the fields and dig for groundhogs. But not Capt. Jack. He wanted to be with us, and specifically, he wanted held by me. 40 lbs of dog is not all that heavy in water, but clinging puppy claws grow wearisome after a while. Any time someone else wanted to hold Jack he’d begin to whine and look around for me. As soon as he found me, he’d push away and swim straight to his Mommy’s arms. Back in his safe harbor, he’d put his head on my shoulder and fall asleep.
We stayed in the river till we were not just wrinkly but beginning to get pinched. Back at the house there was so much leftover reunion food that for the very first time in 13 years, I didn’t cook anything for dinner. Not that we ever need to eat dinner after the reunion, but we always do. Conversation flowed from one room to the other till wee dark hours, when palettes were set out on the floor for the overflow of sleepyheads and all tumbled exhausted into bed. Sunday morning was groggy and leisurely. The YD’s joined us for a late breakfast and we picked up where we had left off the night before.
And so another reunion has come and gone. For me, it means summer is almost over. No. It means it’s actually over, and these few weeks till September are sort of free time. There’s nothing on the schedule that requires me to "perform". All I need do is show up for the next few weeks, and I’m ready for that. I’m still working on the plans for fall classes. I’m knitting away on the P&P Stocking (on the instep now) and gearing up to write the handouts for all the new things I’ll be teaching this year.
There’s a cool breeze floating in through the window behind me. I hope it’s a harbinger of change, of crisp days and deep sleeping nights. I’m ready for the skein of summer to be knit up. I’m ready to start on those fall projects. posted by Bess | 5:44 AM