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Long live all maidens

easy and beautiful !

Long live mature women also,

Tender and loveable and full of good labor. 

Gaudeamus Igitur

« The List of Lasts | Main


 Well. It’s all over for me at Hildegarde. Yes, I too will not be returning. But, unlike you, I had no time to prepare for the abrupt end to my twenty-eight year career. And there were no surprise potlucks either. Let me tell you my story:

Time’s Up

It’s glorious out and I’m parked on sedate Elm Street, facing Commencal. This hot July day I have chosen to sit on a shady outdoor patio in full view of my car. I ask if they ticket here. Oh yeah, you’re dead meat as soon as your time’s up says the perky waitress. I dig into my six-dollar chocolate cherry ice cream, the cheapest and smallest thing on the menu, served beautifully in a glass tulip dish. I ask for an ice water and wait for my daughter to emerge from the medical building across the street. She’s having a bit of a bad day. I’m playing it cool, trying to live in the moment and am hoping things will be OK. 

 Finally able to relax one month into my summer holidays, I look forward to at least another two. There’s an ease now about the pace of things. My body feels loose and limp and my breathing is noticeably Zen. The quaint Austrian folk tune of my cell sounds romantic, even unobtrusive and I decide to answer it. Oh, I say to my husband, the principal? Right … Sure. I’ll call her back. For several weeks already I had been expecting the call about the renewal of my annual contract. 

Feigning calm, I punch the familiar number on the keypad of my cell and am surprised to reach the administrator directly. Her message is politely prefaced and the words are deliberately formed and carefully transmitted to me. I detect a slight quaver in the voice. She is ready for the onslaught, whatever it may be. Am I ready? We have decided not to renew your contract (keep talking) and have decided it’s time to part ways  ... to part ways … to part ways …the reason, yes, I must ask her the reason. It’s vague and convoluted and I am barely hearing.

 I might have known what was coming but nothing had quite prepared me for that stark statement of finality.  Numbly, I thank her for telling me. Then the awkward space of several seconds, that pregnant pause: my final words … she’s waiting for my final words. I sputter something about my many satisfying years, grateful parents and happy students. My words evaporate as soon as they are formed and those that do escape fall on sterile ground. Such a dolt you are Adria. 

 Better doors open. Everything has a purpose. Change is good. And there was more such kindly advice, maxims that took days, weeks, to root. But take root they did.

And as you with your retirement, Sarah, I too now had the need to complete the deed that had been set in motion, not by myself, but by others. One final visit to Hildegarde would help me to finish the unfinished business.

I showered early the next morning and dressed in my bright yellow Capri’s and form fitting sky blue top. I felt fresh and daring and took the drive along the Lakeshore with plenty of time to think along the way.  Upon arriving, I announced myself to the receptionist and asked to be escorted to my former studio by a maintenance person. We made small talk along the way. One by one, in slow motion, I removed each picture from the studio walls as he stood by and watched: an out of date Van Gogh calendar, some old prints of small Dutch villages. Why? He asked kindly. The lump in my throat would not allow me to speak. As I pulled down a fishing boat poster there was that uncanny sensation of deja vu, of my entire Hildegarde career, a sort of rewind and then fast-forward. But I was dealing and proud of it. Basically recyclable material, I wanted the pleasure of ditching the stuff myself. I would not have them do it for me. I didn’t want the newly hired, plastic, consultant/piano teacher looking at my pen and ink vignettes, seeking escape, while slugging away with his or her batch of would-be-pianists.

Such was the semblance of closure for me that day, Sarah. My writing about this has been cathartic, as the expression goes. After the ordeal, driving eastward past the rose beds of Gairloch Gardens, a string of words began to form in my head. They all started with the prefix ‘re’: release, relief, recess, renew, recoup. I put in a CD. The Goldberg Variations, variations on a theme, by Bach.


                   felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas!

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