Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An evening with Bella

Yesterday, after a few very jam packed days, Bella took a personal vacation: She exploded in the AM at Pamela, crying for over an hour, and when Grampette picked her up for swimming, she was clearly in no mood. But she took her home, where she and Bella had a very quiet day in the garden, and midway through the afternoon, Bella conked out and took a long nap. When she returned to us after 7pm, she was transformed - much more relaxed and all smiles.

Pamela and I have been trying to think of how to help her: She's having a hard time hearing every single stranger in the world coo about Isaac, and see how much time he takes up of our waking lives... so I decided to take her out on a date for tonight - just us two.

I picked her up right after work, and naturally we headed out to the burrito store. Her new favorite one is out near Southdale, and she likes sitting on the high stools by the front window. Clearly starving, she ate her full burrito bowl without a fork - it was chip dipping time.

Afterwards, she insisted on going to Guitar Center... Now, usually our Guitar Center visits have been more a tour of the rooms with her going "round the world" on the instruments. This time, she was really diving into individual ones, spending extra time PLAYING them. This was very new for us and I was fascinated.

In the digital piano room, she asked "Why do these all make this same sound?" I explained that it's a "piano" sound. She said she prefers keyboards that can make ALL kinds of sounds... But she sat there and played the piano for 10 minutes, picking out small melodies. She stared at sheet music, and was kind of playing along with it - playing notes up when the notes went up the stave. Not really READING it, but understanding there's a relationship between the page and the keys. It was very advanced.

In the synth room, she was fascinated by a vocoder: This is a synth that you hold down keys, then speak into a microphone, and the sound follows your voice: It can sound like angels or robots or other things... like ants and turtles and ghosts. Bella had me changing notes and program settings, and kept on saying "I AM A TURTLE" (or Ant, or Ghost, or Robot) while I played. Again, it was maybe 10 minutes of very focused activity.

In the drum room, she was a bit more of a tourist, but really liked the hand percussion... but no breakthroughs in there. The previous visit, she did spend extra time in the cymbal room, giving every single one a good whack to see what the difference was.

The really wild thing was Bella in the acoustic guitar room: She wanted to see the 3/4 size guitars, and sat with a peaceful faraway look as she strummed them: Really going at the strings, making big sounds. She tried some full size, some ukeleles, and even an acoustic bass. I showed her how the tuning pegs worked and tried to sort of explain how the sound is made by the vibrating string... which is why when you shorten the string, it gets higher sounding... that may have gone over her head.

But it's telling that for the FIRST TIME she asked when I was going to buy her something - a guitar. She's never asked for anything from Guitar Center before. Now, this could be because Jenny has a guitar. In fact that's very likely. But I also think that sometime in the last few weeks something has started to click with her and she's looking at instruments as something to PLAY and not just to make noises with.

We spent well over an hour there tonight, and I only left because I caught a glimpse of a clock... it was such a nice time. As we left, she saw people going in and said "I think they're returning some cymbals. I see they have a bag and there were two cymbals in it. I bet they play drums!".

As we drove, we were listening to Kraftwerk's Computer World, and I told her about how they liked to pretend they were robots. She liked the music a lot. Later, during "Computer Love", she broke in with "One-Two.... Four" in a robot voice... mixing in stuff from the earlier "Numbers" track. The girl is clever. Of course throughout the night, she was dropping crazy memorable quotes which hours later have slipped my mind... save one: But she made me promise not to tell anyone, so this one is going into my personal files... maybe later. On a good night like this, I must keep confidences.

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