Today, I arrived at school with a knot in the pit of my stomach.
The concert is Thursday, and I haven't seen some of these kids in two weeks, since before my surgery. I must have been insane to not postpone it. How will I be ready in time?
The day began as a whirlwind. Tuesdays are for beginners, and they arrived at their lessons on time, with big smiles, ready to cross off skills on their "Superstars Band Notebooks" (a blackout by the concert earns them a prize), practice their solos, and learn the ropes for the day concert and the big night. They were enthusiastic and eager to help out.
We began our group rehearsal on the stage, and they listened carefully (well, mostly) as I gave instructions. I announced my pregnancy, and they cheered and clapped (gotta love Catholic school.) The stage lights twinkled in their eyes, and they performed 'Go Tell Aunt Rhodie' with the skill of professional musicians (albeit 10-year old ones.)
We motored through our tunes, practiced introducing their solos at the 'phoney-baloney microphone' (a cymbal stand with the cymbal removed stands in for the real deal). They played admirably.
I might just pull this off. I thought. Well, at least with this group. This is a good sign. Phew, so much less to worry about. Thank you, God. You really do love me.
Time was running out, and we had 3 tunes left to play when Gina* came up, holding her clarinet at arms length. Her alternate C# key had gone wonky. I grabbed it, looked quickly, and handed it back to her, saying I'd fix it at her lesson because it wasn't affecting her playing now.
As we launched into "Hard Rock Blues", I noticed a, well, funny smell coming from my left. Hmmmm... that's odd. We're having pizza dippers or a meatball sub for lunch, and that smells kind of, um, corny. And poopy. Corny poopy. That's really weird. I don't know of any lunch that smells like corny poop.
I conducted on, noting as the percussion carefully performed their rim shots, and reminded them to not play louder than the entire rest of the band (difficult with 9 beginner percussion in a band of 33.)
Then I felt it. Something, um, strange was on the palm of my left hand. I kept conducting, my baton firmly gripped in my right, and looked down.
That's weird. It's kind of... brown. Huh. What could that be? I sniffed it. It smells like...
Then it dawned on me.
There was poop on my hand. POOP ON MY HAND, on a random Tuesday morning. How the heck did I get poop on my hand? I was completely bewildered. I thought back, but couldn't think of any time when I would have come in contact with poop in the last 24 hours. I kept conducting, trying not to let it brush the music stand, leading the kids through "My Dreydl" and "Jingle Bells", and fighting the urge to projectile vomit across the flute section (this would not be easy to clean out of the keys).
Whispers began coming from the clarinet section:
"It smells bad, really bad." "I think it's poop." "Who would poop on my clarinet?" "I think it's dog poop!" "How did you get dog poop on your clarinet?" "Ew, it really stinks!"
Gina came back up, with Julie* by her side. I looked down at her shoe, and saw the offending matter, sitting on the tip of her pink suede tennis shoe. The same shoe she rested her clarinet on while she stopped to turn the page of her lesson book between songs. Mystery solved.
"Great Job, Everyone! You can clean up!" I announced, and dismissed them. The two girls looked at each other, then met my eye, and started to try to explain.
"Julie, run to the bathroom and get me some paper towel with lots of soapy water on it, right now." Julie took off at lightening speed, hopping over my crutches and making it down the three steps in one leap. Gina looked sheepish. "It's OK, Gina. I understand." I said, not wanting to embarrass her further. "It happens to everyone. In Paris, it happened to me in the rain and I slipped in it and fell on my butt." She smiled a little. "And a bird pooped on my head. Twice. Now, I'll fix your clarinet in your lesson, but you need to go clean it off and wash that shoe! Wash it really good!"
I scrubbed my hand clean, and when kids asked, just answered their queries with "you don't want to know."
And later, in the bathroom, I scrubbed my hands with even more soap and hot, hot water.
*Names have been changed to protect the easily embarrassed.