When they were growing up, eating time was quite a melody. After all, there are those who dawdle, arrive late, continue to make sounds, interrupt,eat off the other’s palette (arguably the equivalent of a music stand when instruments dine), and just a very few who are happy with just about whatever they get.
Tuba unfortunately is the oldest, took that to heart, was the biggest, the loudest and invariably the hungriest. Trombone is so full of opinion, and invariably will get smack into your face if he feels like it, with that long protrusive reach.
With grandkids now, two piccolos, a harp who is to this day unnervingly distant (except when she is actually being played), two trumpets, a flute and a cello (excuse me, I should say a bass cello), we had what would make the notorious last tuning-up (which you may think of as the last supper) sound incredibly harmonious.
How it is, then, that I became the designated cook and "ensemble mom"? It remains a mystery, although I am deemed to be the mother of them all, somehow. This faux relationship arose out of necessity, and near tragedy.
We were all in the same room, when a fire broke out. It moved very quickly. Most were either resting, or asleep. Saxophone, who rarely ever was even with us, was the first to start making noise. It still baffles me he was even there, but serendipity comes to mind! And me – a tall oboe, of deep voice but thoroughly feminine… I was the one called into immediate action. I managed to get each of the instruments out of harm’s way. This involved pushing, bellowing, falling over, figuring out a way to break through the window, and guiding all to safety. Afterwards, as everyone marveled at the tragedy that could have been, they concluded that I was the heroine. They also remarked how ironic it was because I so often have also been the one who begins the process of our getting into tune before we perform. Oboes have often carried that role, so in this instance, a treacherous fire, it made perfectly good sense (to them anyway) that I would be their leader yet again.
“Must you eat like a pig, tuba?”
“Really, you sound like that when you eat?”
“No one better be taking a video of this!”
“Mom, what about our blessing?”
“Trumpet, put that down. No, that is not funny! I am sure the flute has no interest in spearing the cello! Oh, for goodness sakes! It is astonishing the group of you can ever work together let alone make sound that anyone would want to hear...”
“Trombone just rammed the side of my neck… Owww!”
“Instruments – all of you -- stop it! Stop it! Each of you, be quiet, and be still! We will recite the prayer, as we should, our blessing. When that is done, quietly, slowly,
help yourself, each to get enough, and not one of you to deprive any of the others of sustenance! Am I understood?”
In unison, each in his or her own unique manner, was heard “Yes Oboe mom…”
Standing aside the table, Oboe offered: “Oh heavenly creator, music be thy name, we appreciate the compositions that bring us to life, and ask that we remain absent infection or damage, that there are those who desire to utilize us, to make us important, to covet what we are able to bring to sound, and we ask for continued longevity. Let our musicians stay well, let us all prosper in the beauty of great and lasting sound... Amen.”
There was a collective, murmured “Amen" that sounded more like an orchestra tuning-up, at which point the instruments began their meal, except for harp who was whimpering.
“Darling, what is wrong ?
“I have three strings that need repair, and to play well is so.. so difficult! My musician does not understand… it is not just about tuning me. These strings are worn by now, and must be replaced!”
“Oh ,come on harp,” groused the bass cello. “Suck it up.! I have that problem all the time We all do.”
“Hold on a second, mister, “ one of the trumpets blared. “I have had a stuck key here or there, and maybe a bit too much saliva for my own liking, but to have an extended string, if you were a harp, that must really hurt like hell!”
“It does!” cried the harp, “you have no idea!”
Tuba was eating vociferously, but managed to speak even with a full mouth: “Things always work out. You just have to know Harp, it is going to be fixed. It is going to be ok. In the meantime these notes are fantastic, and you must eat or you will feel even worse! These are among the tastiest notes in a long time!”
Harp frowned, but moved forward, touched some of the melody, smelled the cadence, and then began eating, very gingerly.
The table became quiet other than with the sound of eating.
Oboe tried to stay in the back ground, not let on how pleased she was they were all finally eating, and to some degree actually getting along (or at least not in each other’s throats, as it were).
In the corner a broom watched, knowing soon it would be her turn to help with clean-up. She said to dust pan, “I’m sure glad I don’t have to chew my food. They’re all so full of themselves because they make sound, as if some people like to listen to it. You know Dusty, if human beings had a choice between musical instruments or us, I give you heavy odds they would go for us. It’s not real hard to make sound. It is very hard to keep things cleaned up, let alone in order, without a broom and a dust pan!”
Several of the instruments gave a quick scowl toward broom. Cello chuckled in his low growl. The trumpet shouted “Yeah right!” Trombone made a sound that resembled a bronx cheer.
Tuba laughed uproariously , and ate with even more enthusiasm.
“Broom, I promise to make a big mess just for you!”
Oboe peered up at the ceiling, and thought to herself, “When I pass on, oh Lord, and return to thee, you will show me there is some composition to all this, right? You will show me it is not just haphazard and without design, that when you set out to compose all this, all the universe, you had a baton, you had a rhythm, a sense of where you were going, and how to get there. You will show me that won’t you Lord?”
Tuba noticed Oboe murmuring to herself, and blurted out quite a belch, which got the entire group laughing. Even Oboe smiled, and decided best to let it go, for now.
“Eat! We have a big performance tonight..."