Learning Jingle Bells…quiet holiday spirit here…a child’s old-fashioned courtesy

Both my father and I are Holiday Drop-outs, lying low for the most part until after New Year’s Day when the world turns back to sanity.

Our holiday spirit is a quiet one…dedicated to continuing to do the things we usually do…and keeping it all on a small, human scale.

Last night was one of those quiet moments as I’m over on the Illinois side, visiting my father. He tutors a family friend, N.; she’s at the school where I attended 6th grade, when that school was new. The teacher just Didn’t Understand Me.

Last night, though, in the luxury of the one-to-one student-teacher ratio, N. was generously understood and grateful for it. She is a beautifully-mannered young girl trained in “please” and “thank you” under her mother’s eye in the same old-fashioned manner my mother’s childeren were. She wins my heart with her quiet poise that retains her childhood within it. “She’s a doll,” Pop says, and it’s true.

Her evening with us includes Pop’s tutoring time with her…social studies and spelling last night…a simple breakfast-style supper…and a turn on the piano picking out Christmas carols and holiday songs.

Pop has discovered that when they put her spelling words up on the computer and she has to respond by keyboard that she focuses better and does 100 percent better in learning.

At the piano she showed me tunes she learned from her sister and then we went on to learn “Jingle Bells,” in the key of C. What I love about teaching is that I always learn something. Last night I learned that the chorus of “Jingle Bells,” when played within the key of C lies completely withing the span of that chord—between C and G. What a wonderfully simple song structure, that relies on the rhythm for its zip.

We’re playing without music, so N. and I do some ear training as well as just plain old-fashioned practicing. Repetition builds mastery. The ear training is simple. In one method we sing the tune together. Does this next note go up or down? Okay then, that tells you what you need to do with your finger on the piano.”

At the end of our session, she’s pretty much got it. I run her down the hill in my little car…she reminds me she needs to sit in the back…and with her winning old-fashioned courtesy, as she alights, she thanks me for teaching her to play Jingle Bells.

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  1. What a lovely evening of connections across generations. It makes me want to meet Nelaina, and to appreciate the sense and sensibility of Janet, and sometime to have a chance to meet “Pop” to thank him for his part in both… The writing has the quiet tone of, of, of Janet engaged again and mid-West rooted…

  2. Every time I sit down to read another story by Janet, I feel a contentment and sense of peace come over me. The writing has the wry and dry sense of humor that Janet has in personal conversation (along with the ability to make me laugh right out loud!). I’m impressed that Janet brings us into her home with her writing so vividly that I could imagine I’m listening to the sounds and songs of a home town radio show. I wish I could walk into the story and sit with Pop and Nelaina and Janet, singing Jingle Bells all together.

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