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I Introduce to You the Flute

The squeak of shoes on the gym floor, a teacher shouting at a disruptive student, the smell of basket balls and body odor, along with the overwhelming invasion of personal space greets me as my teacher leads her class into the gym. The older students sit in the bleachers while the younger students sit on the floor. As we enter, other classes scooch further back to make room for incoming students, and my teacher seats us directly in front of chairs arranged like a horseshoe. When a brown-bearded man enters, followed by a group of junior high students, the room hushes in an almost reverent manner. All but the bearded one sits, and I am very disappointed when the junior high students hide behind what looks like church podiums on sticks. They all place white sheets of paper on these, and I take notice of the closest item. It looks like a thick, shiny, silver wand with holes. As the bearded one says a bunch of boring stuff, I watch the student holding the wand occasionally lift it to her face to silently blow through it. Maybe it was a fancy inhaler. I have a friend who carries one in his pocket all the time. He usually needs it in the gym, so maybe there's something about gyms that make people need them. It is stuffy in here.

Suddenly, the student looks at the bearded man, holds her holy wand on her knee as if at attention, and stares at him attentively. He lifts his arms revealing generously moistened armpits, and I listen. I can't describe the sound erupting from the group before me as beautiful, but neither am I repulsed. I’m enchanted by the silver wand and the girl holding it. Although she is sitting directly in front of me, I cannot hear what surely must be sound coming from it, but the bearded man wrenches his eyebrows down and flaps his arms about and makes many obvious bodily gestures to silence the loud ones, and then I hear it. It is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard, and I don’t know what it is.

What is all this before me? Why are the students losing their breath over this strange event, why do some lick their…whatever, constantly? Why do some students’ veins pop out when they blow into it? Why are the drums (I know those) all the way in the back? It is over, the bearded man is saying more boring stuff and I'm tired of sitting on the floor.

Later, I'm sitting, again, in the classroom listening to the teacher talk about something I won't remember, and the bearded man comes into our classroom. We gather around him, again, and he speaks. I'm not interested in what he has to say. He's boring, but when I hear, “Would any of you like to miss a little bit of class…” I raise my hand. He can’t be any more boring than what we’re doing now, but he tells us he'll come back later that week to show us his classroom.

I forgot about his visit, but later that week he takes me and several other students to his classroom. There, he displays all the contraptions students held in the gym. Now, I am a silent child. I'm here to get out of school, not interact, but he asks what instrument we would like to play. I don’t understand what he means by play. To me, play is running in the woods, pretending with real or imaginary friends, playing with dolls, riding my bike, or bothering my brothers. Before my brain catches up, the other students choose their items, but I don’t know how to respond. “Here,” he says to me, “why don't you take a closer look at the instruments so you can decide which one you like.” Oh, so they’re called instruments. He goes directly to the instrument I want, and I'm so nervous. It's like going to a new best friend's house for the first time and finding out they’re rich. “Would you like to try?” What? No, I’m not going to put my lips on it right in front of everyone. How embarrassing. I just met the instrument, what, an hour ago. He takes the instrument off its stand, holds it to his fuzzy face and breaths. If I were the dramatic type I would cry, but he looks at me and he asks, “So, you like the flute?” I nod my head. So, you're a flute.

Take Away

I’ve played the flute for over 30 years, and yes, its voice grates on the nerves sometimes, like T. Takemitsu's "Voice," gets dirty and stinky, requires attention, but it makes me happy. As you choose your path in life, hobbies, etc, I encourage you, though it might take work, or a change in plans, do what makes you happy.

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