Republican. Democrat. Republicrat. Demonstrative. Names of political parties. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, subjects, objects. We use them all in our everyday speech and writing, and don’t give them a second thought. That’s how I am now, and how I was when learning my first fairly fluent (at the time) second language, as a tenth grade student at John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles in 1955. Frau Gellman was the teacher. We didn’t even dare thinking of a teacher’s first name. They might as well not have had one. (OK. Diagram that sentence. I could have at one time. No more. Pearl Baker could.)
Then my family moved to Moab, where there were no foreign languages taught. Spanish, later, but not way back then.
Off to college (the U. of U.), and I knew my appetite had just been whetted for other languages, since I recognized so many English words in the German words. Deutch. Pronounce it Dough-each
“Meine Mutter war Deutch,” I told our keepers on a tour of Germany several years back. I wanted to practice what little was left of my mastery over the language. No dice. (I wouldn’t even try translating that to German.) What was really happening was that they wanted to practice their English. In fact, they had been taught English in school from the early grades on. What we Americans on the tour didn’t know was whether they learned American English or Continental English, two different animals.
I know at one point in college, I could think in German.
Since our mother was German, and very musical, we learned many songs in German. Some in German and English. It started with rounds, like Row Your Boat, that are the first step to part singing… It’s tough to teach a little girl or boy to keep his or her part in the head while other notes are going on around. Putting fingers in ears helped, but didn’t stop Mother’s inevitable and most audible corrections.
Row Your Boat was the first round, and we eventually got to some fairly complex (and little known) ones.
Although we children didn’t realize it, my family was on the poorer side of the spectrum. But from early on, we had a piano. Both parents played. Mother also played the cello, which she began in fairly early childhood. Daddy later went on to take up the organ. He played them when and wherever he had the chance, and eventually bought one.
It was a great joy to us children (even, or especially, in adulthood) to hear our parents play duets. In Los Angeles Mother joined or gathered together a string quartet. Live music in one’s own living room. What a treat.
About the piano. Everyone was expected to learn. I balked, and was eventually excused from the duty. I regret that to this day. Childhood is the best time for learning, and although Sam bought me a book of piano lessons for adults (vs. John Thompson). I never did get up enough self-discipline to learn. And although he had piano lessons even into college, I never heard him play. And so it goes.
Unless something happens earlier, my piano will go to the family of a grandson. Sena was a dutiful (and musical) child. She learned both piano and clarinet and plays to this day.
I join countless other Moabites in mourning the death of Don Knowles, although nobody would wish him further trials in this life.
Sam and I were married the year Don and Jo Ann moved to Moab. There soon developed a strong mutual friendship that has lasted through the years. One of the funniest things happened when Sena and Meg were born, two days apart in 1963. Jo Ann and I shared a room at the hospital. One day, the nurses brought us the wrong babies to nurse, and heard about it soon and loudly. We, or I, teased the girls for years saying we were not sure who was a Knowles and who was a Taylor. The girls are now women older than we were when they were born, and remain friends.
Something in the red sand, no doubt.