Tuesday, September 2, 2008

If At First


Between the Olympics and the presidential campaign, we've learned of ordinary folks who overcame humble beginnings and other obstacles. While their tales can be uplifting for some, for others -- still trudging towards long sought-after goals -- their sagas can seem as harassment. I'm here to help.


Although I've been fortunate to see my memoir published, and am nearing the final pages of my novel, I admit to three unmet goals that continue to taunt me. Perhaps you have a few in your sights.


Over the years, I’ve enrolled in Spanish language classes at DePaul University, the Institute of Cervantes, and Digame Chicago. I possess enough textbooks, workbooks, audiotapes, and CDs to equip the entire student body of a Columbian school.

A One-A-Day Berlitz calendar sits on a kitchen counter, adjacent to my coffeemaker, so I can easily capture a new phrase each day. And yet, when I attempt a conversation with a native speaker, I get eye rolls from my daughters, a puzzled expression on the face of the fluent person, and a notion to chuck the whole pursuit and save myself embarrassment. And yet, I soldier on.

Spanish isn’t the only goal I shoot for every now and again: Swimming and Playing The Piano (not simultaneously) are also battles that find me trudging uphill, reaching a third of the way, and then find me sliding downhill on my tush.


Similar to my accumulation of equipment para habla espanol, my closet holds a gym bag containing flippers, goggles, lessons encased in plastic, and a waterproof watch; and naturally, half-dozen How To Swim manuals. (Truthfully, I find the gathering of gear to be the most fun in my pathetic pursuits.)


Our Wurlitzer upright sits on the wall of our dining room with a musical score opened to Rogers and Hart’s “Blue Room.” The book hasn’t moved since 2006. A pencil sits alongside the book, as if to suggest the pianist will scribble instructions to herself; i.e. count, quarter note gets one beat, or EGBDF.


Every so often, I feel a pull toward the abandoned instrument, lug the bench out – which has grown leaden with Adult Beginner books and Large Type Broadway Musicals– and sit myself down. After a few measures, I’ll get to one of those mysterious symbols, then spend the rest of the hour trying to find the meaning of pianissimo. But the idea of giving up my Piano Bar Dream, the one that includes a snifter stuffed with dollar bills, boozers begging for “Blue Room,” and yours truly bopping her gray head at the keys? Never.

2 comments:

Rosetta said...

Hi Elaine -- Here's another one of your blog entries to really hit home for me! I thought I was the only one who never got around to those big things on my list. The little irrelevant stuff (like being a small business owner) always seems to get in the way . . . . Thanks for a great morning read.

Anonymous said...

I read about your Spanish lessons and laugh. I am starting Italian lesson 9/16 and wondering how that will go.
I don't imagine I will ever be any good at it, but hopefully I can learn enough to find what I am asking for. I do have
the name of a girl I used to work with that speaks fluent Italian and she said I could call her and she would try
to help. We'll see.
Jackie