Friday, November 11, 2011


By Marjorie Hart

Do you have a problem with priorities? Years ago, there was no such thing as we know it today—priority was an unknown word. No lists, no two-year calendar, no cell phone and no one to remind you, “Are you finished yet?”

Now, having a priority is essential before a cup of coffee though I wonder at its usefulness. If I start the day with music, I know I should be writing, If I’m writing, I should be practicing. Let’s add an emotional element—guilt. Do we need more guilt? I looked back at my childhood for a clue.

When I grew up there was music every day: morning, noon and night. Even in those bitter Iowa mornings which were so cold the frost covered the wallpaper, I’d dash to the kitchen and huddle next to the black iron range where my sister was practicing her violin. Each morning, it was hot cocoa with Czerny violin exercises. In the afternoon, mother’s piano pupils would line up and I’d hear so many versions of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavichord, I could hum them in my sleep. At night, mother lulled us asleep playing the plaintive C Major Brahms Intermezzo. Its haunting melody and the memory can still bring me to tears.

My father had other interests—he loved books and poetry and could dramatically recite The Raven to visiting company, or show me the exotic countries in the National Geographic. My first encounter with Tiffany was their glittering ad on the first page. When we walked in the woods, he kept Audubon’s book of birds in his coat pocket to spot a new wood thrush. But my favorite was the mosquito-net tent he brought from Hawaii during WWI. He pitched it in the back yard, between a lilac bush and the purple-martin bird house. When I crawled in, it became a gauzy-white palace where I could see out, but no one could see in. There I would read or write by the hour, oblivious to the call for dinner.

Did my parents have priorities? They got up each day and did what they had to do as an integral part of their lives, without a list, a calendar, a car, or a complaint.

But I’m still looking for my priority. Shall I practice for a concert or finish my writing?


Zoe Ghahremani said...

Nice article, dear Marjorie. I always enjoy your writing.
This is how I see it. Our grandparents may not have had a written list, but they, too, prioritized. When there's pressure - and we all know what that means - we prioritize automatically. You think you don't? Look at all the activities surrounding you as you relocate to a new home, yet you published this post, didn't you? That's what I call priority :-)

Laurel Corona said...

Sometimes it feels more like triage these days! Thanks for your reminder of gentler, sweeter times

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