“You should really do some piano practice before the concert on Thursday,” I commented to Mini-Me, as she was sitting in the kitchen shoveling the contents of the cookie tin into her mouth, her just-been-swimming braids leaving a damp patch on the back of her school summer dress. The end-of-term is in clear view and, with it, the onslaught of concerts, sports events and picnics.
“My music’s at school, so I can’t,” she mumbled back at me through the chocolate. “I’ll do some on the recorder, though, instead. I’m rubbish, and our teacher says I need to practise before Thursday!”
I paused pouring her milk and looked at her, a slightly mocking gleam in my eye.
“Erm..? Recorder?..Since when did you play the recorder?”
I let the sarcasm go this time – I felt maybe I deserved it.
“Honestly, Mummy. You really do need to pay attention. It’s not all about you, all of the time!” she continued, treating me to one of my most used phrases.
I pointed out to Mini-Me that, perhaps, this was a little harsh, seeing as though she had not once since starting at her school in January actually played the recorder at home. Then my thoughts turned to a more important aspect of these previously unannounced music lessons.
“Am I paying for this? I don’t remember writing a cheque!”
“It’s okay..it goes on the term bill,” she said. “So, Daddy pays..,” she added reassuringly. Or conspiratorially, I’m not entirely sure.
“Finish your cookie and I’ll help you. I can play the recorder!”
This didn’t surprise Mini-Me in the slightest and she barely blinked at this revelation. I have a myriad of seemingly useless talents, which occasionally come in handy. Reciting the books of the Bible in order; remembering the names of the children from any celebrity couple; being able to tell you exactly what anyone was wearing at any given event; and recalling how to play the recorder from lessons I took at school thirty years ago. And no, that’s not because I’ve been secretly practising.
I followed Mini-Me up the stairs and into her bedroom. Gingerly making my way through the dolls’ shoes and painstakingly arranged paraphernalia that only an eight year old girl can amass and which I have to stop myself vacuuming up when my hyper-tidyness takes over, I sat down on the bed and looked at the photocopy of the music lying there, next to a brown plastic recorder.
“Show me what you can do, sweetie!” I exclaimed in as encouraging a tone as I could muster. Adding a few seconds later, “But it might be an idea to try and play actually sitting up..no?”
By this time, Mini-Me was lying on her back on her bed, the recorder sticking out of her mouth at a right angle to her body, having propped the music on her window sill, so she could see it out of the corner of her left eye. I inwardly sighed. This was going to be a test of my not abundant patience.
She obligingly sat up, placed the music on the bed in front of her and started to play. Within four seconds we were both bent double with laughter. She hadn’t been wrong about her ability, that’s for sure.
“Mummy. Just. Teach. Me. This. Piece.!” she pleaded, between her giggles.
I took the recorder off her and began to play slowly, so that she could try and remember what fingers I used to make each note. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds as every time I started to play I began to laugh at how bad she had been. Also, it didn’t help that sitting crossed legged on her bed, piping, I felt like some kind of overgrown pixie wearing stilettos, which amused me greatly.
As an aside, I’m fairly sure Michael Jackson never intended Smooth Criminal to be played by an eight year old (or her mother, for that matter) on the recorder. I really do hope his family is getting decent royalties.
After a short time attempting to teach Mini-Me the correct notes, even though she could get the finger placement correct, the minute she began to blow into the recorder it became apparent that there wasn’t enough time -by any stretch of a supportive mother’s imagination – to combine finger movement with puffing to produce a decent sound.
“Okay..listen..here’s what we’re going to do. It’s called ‘damage limitation’. It means making things as least bad as they can be, in a situation where things haven’t worked out properly. Understand? Who do you sit behind?”
“Yes. Emily. Why?”
“Is she good?”
“She’s better than me!”
“That’s not really answering my question, but anyway..you’re good at the fingers, so put the recorder in your mouth and just move your hands. But don’t blow into it!”
Mini-Me nodded, doing a great unintentional impression of Mutley.
“Result!” she triumphantly said. “By the way, is Daddy coming to the concert?”
That question made me smile. In truth, I shall miss having The Doctor next to me at a school event where Mini-Me is performing, or having some achievement recognized. We still do those things together – we are both her parents, after all. Most importantly, he’s someone to elbow me in the ribs when I start convulsing with laughter.
“No, he’s going to be working, sweetheart. It’ll be just me.”
Mini-Me looked at me straight in the eye and sternly said,
“Well..you had better behave yourself, then. I know what you’re like! You’ll start shaking with laughter the minute we begin playing and that’s proper offensive.“
I’m dreading Thursday. Smooth Criminal. Being huffed on the recorder. I need to think up some damage limitation strategies for my almost certain inappropriate reaction.