Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Unremarkable Day

A Student--"Song #1" (mp3)
A Student--"Song #2" (mp3)

It was an unremarkable day yesterday, a day hardly worth noting, a sad day. The pall of a teenager's death, a girl from a nearby school, hung over an already cloudy and chilly campus.

The first student I saw in my first class at 8:00AM was the boy who had taken her to the prom a mere week earlier. "You don't need to be here," I told him, but he had a missed assignment he needed to complete for me and he was there to complete it. He said he knew he had three difficult days ahead to get through and so he wanted to do it now.

He carried the additional burden of being thought of as her boyfriend, which he wasn't, not her friend, which he was. The prom connection carried all kinds of implications, and like it or not, he was going to go through this day, and perhaps several that follow, expected to be something that he might have liked to have been, might have just started to have been, but wasn't. But he was there.

It became a day of labored excuses. When a student dies, anyone who wants a piece of the tragedy is welcome to it, to use for his or her own purposes. Such is our fear of teenage depression, perhaps with good reason. And so, classes were skipped, assignments put off, expectations excused, obligations not met.

I got caught up in it, too. It became a day of laborious inactivity. By nightfall, I was lying on a couch watching episode after episode of a season of 24 that I had already seen, just pushing the button for the next episode the second that the credits for the previous one had ended.

But a couple of interesting things had happened, small things. We have a final assembly for our graduating seniors today, and we had to move it up a day to accomodate the girl's funeral. As happens in these situations, everyone wants a senior assembly, but no one wants to do it. And so, it falls on, typically, just one student to pull it off. All the other seniors want it to be good, funny, memorable, but they are done, done, done. They got nuthin'.

And so it falls to that one guy, and I keep running into him all day. He's getting video together, calling and texting like a madman, he's negotiating with the Upper School head, he's calling other guys trying to find out when and where their parts of the assembly are and when he can get them, he's reassuring me that he'll get me the stuff by night. At the same time, he's trying to work out some kind of senior prank, find some way to pay for it, hope against hope that it will matter. I tell him to call me, to let me know what he needs. He never does.

And, late in the morning, a senior I barely know walks into my office and hands me a CD. "Here's my senior project," he says. I look at it; it is obviously a bunch of songs. I look at him and say, "You have made my day," but I don't mean it, at least not in the way that I say it to him. I said, "I will look forward to listening to these songs later," and I shake his hand and he is gone.

But the truth is, I didn't remember his senior project, didn't remember giving him the green light to spend his required two afternoons a week working on writing, performing, and recording his own music. And so, when he handed me the CD, I was shocked, didn't even know what it was, and, as I said, didn't really even know him. All of which made it more awe-inspiring that he had fulfilled a fuzzy obligation that we had set who-knows-how-many-months earlier.

How surprising it is sometimes when someone does what he has committed to doing.

We tend to think that we can decide when we're finished with something, and perhaps we can, but it makes all the more remarkable those persons who keep on going, even in the smallest of ways, when everyone else has thrown in the towel.

I think the songs by the student are better than you might expect.


Anonymous said...

Don't know what to say other than your words tug at my heart.

Jason said...

Ditto, Anonymous

jed said...

the irony of that girl's parents owning a funeral home....so sad. on a lighter note, the Student is obviously a fan of Josh Rouse. he did a good job. i was only covering songs in high school.

Bob said...

Yeah, Jed, but you were covering Neil. As I still am and you probably still are.

jed said...

indeed. Bob, go to tonequest.com and look at sample issues, i think. one is a huse interview with Larry Cragg, Neil's guitar tech. it's called "The Welder." it is a great insight into Neil and Pancho's world, technically speaking, and also a GREAT story.

jed said...

sorry, "huge" interview....