‘Practice practice practice. But please don’t fake your practice notes and forge your parents’ signatures’
If there’s anything I’m more tired of than reading about the election, it’s writing about the election. So this week, I thought I’d switch gears and write a story that makes fun of inept people in positions of power. It also involves some lying and cheating.
It’s about the time The Child faked her violin practice notes.
First, I have to say that the whole situation was absurd from the get-go — the fact that she had to take the violin. See, The Child had been playing the piano basically from birth. And playing it very well indeed, I’ll have you know.
She played the piano so well that she played in competitions and gave recitals. She and some of her fellow piano prodigies once played for the residents of a nursing home in New Jersey, where a little boy was startled enough to almost miss a note when he was in the middle of Chopin’s Fantaise-Impromptu and all these oldsters started swaying in unison and singing ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’.
But she was happily ensconced in The Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School in New York City, whose name I still choose to omit for fear of embarrassment (mine as well as the school’s). This is the same school where the nifty sophisticated parents used to throw those elaborately wonderful martini parties you can read about in ‘Three, and You’re Under the Host’.
Well. This school, wonderful though it was (and still is), required that each girl take an instrument, starting in fourth grade. And for some silly bureaucratic reason, the piano didn’t count. Personally, I think they just wanted the girls to have to carry a saxophone or trumpet or flute to school each day — to build character. Or something.
Anyway. The Child picked the violin. Not because she wanted to learn to play the violin, as you shall soon see. But I’m thinking it was because it was relatively easy to tote.
I did mention that The Child was in fourth grade, right? This is an important detail because this was also the year that the school made a big deal about the girls being ‘responsible for their own work’ and that the parents should not interfere. You were definitely not supposed to help with their homework. In fact, if you even looked at a piece of homework, you had to write your initials on it so the teacher knew you’d done so.
Personally, I loved this policy. I was kind of busy in those days, being a copywriter on Madison Avenue and all. (You can read of my many zany adventures by clicking on the Adland Lore tab in the sidebar.)
So. I was completely unprepared to come home one day from an action-packed Adland Day to find a stern message on our answering machine. It went something like this:
“An issue has arisen involving your daughter. Your presence is requested in the Office of the Headmistress of School Name Goes Here as soon as possible.”
Goodness! What in heaven’s name could she have been up to? She was a little young for dealing drugs. And cell phones — which became the object of confiscation when she was in high school — hadn’t even been invented yet. Or just barely.
So I screwed my courage to the sticking place, or something like that, and got myself to the Headmistress’s office. There I found not only the Headmistress, but The Child’s violin teacher, clutching several sheets of paper and looking outraged. (The violin teacher, incidentally, is the ‘inept person in a position of power’ in this story, not the Headmistress.)
Turns out that The Child was required, as part of her violin instruction, to keep a practice log where she noted how much time she spent practicing each day. And that she was supposed to get one of her parents to sign it each week. Well. I had never seen this practice log, much less signed it. Which was the trouble. So now Inept Violin Teacher Lady hands me the practice log.
It seems that The Child had taken it upon herself to write in ‘practice times’ of ’84 minutes’, ‘132 minutes’, ’67 minutes’ and suchlike. (Which is pretty funny, as well as unlikely.) I had just startled to chuckle inappropriately when I noticed the ‘signatures’.
At the bottom of each weekly column of completely fantastical fabricated practice times, she had painstakingly forged our signatures. There they were: our whole names, middle names and titles included. I was ‘Mrs. First Name Middle Name Last Name’. The Dude was even ‘Dr. First Name Middle Name Last Name, M.D.‘. Scrawled in nine-year-old handwriting. In pencil.
Oh, and there’s more. This was March. The practice log started in September. Don’t you think, if you were the Violin Teacher in Question, that you would have noticed something funny before almost seven months had passed?
So what was the upshot of this meeting? In addition to having to apologize (after explaining first that I was merely following the school’s hands-off homework policy), The Child and I had to attend Remedial Makeup Violin Practice — at seven in the morning. I suppose the punishment did in fact fit the crime, especially since the Inept Violin Teacher had to be there too.
Quick note in case you’re feeling sort of bad about this school. The Headmistress wasn’t born yesterday; shortly after this incident the Violin Teacher was reassigned to Other Duties.
And what was the upshot at home? The Child and The Dude and I got what is known as a ‘teachable moment’ out of the whole episode. You know, where you talk about things like honesty and responsibility and how it’s really not a great idea to lie and cheat and put inept people in positions of power. (Are you reading this, Donald?)
Oh, and shortly thereafter, and for the duration of her required-instrument period at the school, The Child switched to the french horn.
Amagansett, New York. November 2016