Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Bad

This isn’t easy to admit, but there are several activities I currently engage in where I am, well, bad. Not fair, mediocre, or C+; just bad. And yet, I soldier on.

One would think if a student sat in class after class of Spanish language, and was still unable to dialogue in a tense other than first, she'd throw up her hands, and declare, Adios. Pero, no. This mujer continues to listen to Coffee Break Spanish podcasts on her iPhone, click on the Spanish Anywhere app in her downtime, and embarrass her only children by attempting conversations with any Latina(o) who crosses their path.

For this inability to speak and understand the Spanish language, I blame my parents. Yiddish! Such was the language of the ghetto I grew up in in the 1940s. Ver can that take me, I ask you? On top of that, the Division Street I knew back then is now Paseo Boricua, where Spanish is the native tongue. I would've been so ready if Min and Irv had a bissel foresight.

While we’re blaming the parents (oh, come on, hop aboard), let’s point fingers at them for my dismal renditions on the piano. Over the years, I’ve tortured a variety of teachers. Some have encouraged me to keep count with a metronome. Others suggested scales. And some benevolent souls have allowed me to skip Beethoven and go straight to Rogers and Hart. And yet, close your ears.

Would it have been so terrible to place a piano in our little flat above the store? Not a grand, of course, but a spinet. Instead of Mom’s Singer Sewing Machine in a corner of the kitchen, we could’ve had a sweet little Wurlitzer. So, we’d be a little tight. And Mom would’ve had to hem my skirts by hand. But at least today I’d be popular at parties. “Elaine, come play us a tune,” I’d hear. Instead of, “No, sweetheart,” as the host clamps the keyboard’s lid on my stunted fingers.

Don’t get me started on swimming. My father, built like a wrestler, boasted he swam laps at the Division Street YMCA, “the very same one that Johnny Weissmuller -- you know, Tarzan -- swam at.” If that’s the case, why couldn’t Dad have taught his only daughter how to freestyle? Why did she have to feign her monthly period throughout high school to avoid the natatorium?

Oh, I’ve tried. Don’t think I haven’t tried. Just ask Pat or C.K. at the YMCA, or former swim team captains who teach at health clubs. They’ll remember me, no doubt. “Oh yes, that little lady who can’t swim without fins. The one who won’t go in the deep end?”

But, after much prodding and encouraging from C.K., I did jump into 8’ (Or was it 12’? It doesn’t matter. When you’re sub-five-feet, anything over that is the deep end.) My goal was to rise to the surface --please God-- then tread water. After much flapping of arms, I did rise, but immediately flopped to a back float and peddled to the shallow end.

I’ll share one last Bad. Why in the world did I – who has a thin, wavery voice -- sign up for Vocal classes at Old Town School of Folk Music, I’ll never know. Wait, I do know. While laboring through Rogers and Hart on the piano, I decided it would be fun to sing along. Fancying myself a lounge singer, I envisioned Elaine at the piano, notes of “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” in my singular voice accompanying herself.

Can we once again turn to Min and Irv, keepers of my childhood? Did we even have a record player? We were poor, remember? Lived in those three cramped rooms above our failing grocery store. A radio, yes; but a victrola? Okay, let’s say we did have one. Do you know what would likely be spinning? Famous Jewish cantors. Try and sing along with those guys.

Perhaps I should lay off blaming my folks before my own children pick up the habit and decide Mother is the cause of any of their failings. But, Jill speaks Spanish, Faith sings and plays the piano, both swim. What could they possibly fault me for?

Not to worry; they'll come up with something.