Friday, April 15, 2011

You Just Put Your Lips Together and... Pfyffe

My little girl had her first piccolo lesson today. (That's one of those phrases you don't get to use every day.)

Piccolo is one of the most important elements - along with marching drums, confetti and candy - of our city's annual Carnival, called Fasnacht. It can strike non-Basel natives as bizarre, but it's celebrated as feverishly in our household as in a local's. Instead of pondering what she'll be when she grows up, Li'l G has been flipping between plans to play the drum or the piccolo. She has listened to a CD consisting of only marching drum and piccolo for weeks (weeks!!) at a time.

Now she's almost 7, which is nearly of age for Fasnacht participation, so she was permitted to join a beginner piccolo lesson. And she loved it, and I loved it. It was simply amazing to watch her so intensely learning again. That exploding-heart, soaring pride and joy rocked me the same as it did when I first watched my baby learning.

You can literally see the learning process in little ones sometimes. You watch your baby rehearsing moves in her sleep at night when during the day she's been learning to crawl or walk. (Similarly, there's the Pampers commercial where a baby practices talking in her sleep and wakes up saying her first words, "Mama, thanks for buying me the most expensive diapers!") But the older my G gets, the more fine-tuned and internal her learning becomes.

So observing her today was stirring. As the older kids produced actual sounds on their instruments, I watched Li'l G's glowing eyes watching them, her lips instinctively imitating theirs. She was so focused. And I flashed back to those happy, happy baby days, and revelled in witnessing my daughter so gloriously eager and engaged.

She got a loaner piccolo for home practice and was obsessed all night. If excitement could be measured in decibels, the walls would be shaking and our ears would be bleeding. (I guess they might if she continues piccolo or takes up the marching drum in our apartment.)

I also learned something about myself. I shall never be able to play piccolo, flute or similar. I'm the type that giggles when nervous. I wouldn't be able to keep my lips in that Barney-Rubble-upper-lip-jutting-over-lower-lip formation required to push air downward into the instrument.(See what I mean about Barney's flute face.)

I also got to thinking about this international life of mystery we're living here. Where are we headed? Can G really blend in with the locals like this? (And does that make me the first-generation immigrant parent, slightly clueless and with a foreign accent, but earnest about integrating?)

Unless G becomes the Pied Piper of Anytown, piccolo may not prove a very useful skill outside of Basel. Also, this annual carnival, with the year-round preparation and involvement in a chosen Fasnacht club - well, it seems sort of binding. Would it be a source of great pain to G if we ever to leave Basel? Or is it an odd little sign that we are putting down some roots, that we might actually settle somewhere?

Now I'm going to peek in her room to see if those kissy, red little lips are blowing piccolos in their sleep.

G'night to all and thanks for reading,
Lady MacBeff

To learn more: Yaaaaay, Fasnacht! So weird, so lovable....

p.s. Can anybody confirm or shed any light on this memory? Uncle Google couldn't help for once: Did Burger King or did Burger King not, in the early 1980s, give away a plastic toy piccolo shaped like a pickle... as a reminder of that tasty condiment on their burgers? Let's put our collective memories of retro junk to good use! Thanks!


  1. Cheers to all "first generation immigrant parents, slightly clueless and with foreign accents, but earnest about integrating" everywhere! I guess playing piccolo in a club is like girl-scouts, without the "leave it cleaner than you found it" motto?

  2. So was she blowing the piccolo in her sleep or not? :-)

  3. Ha ha, the piccolo shall be left with less spittle inside than she found it.

    And no, she was not blowing the piccolo in her sleep! Pampers 1, Lady MacB. 0.