Long ago, a teacher kept me after an elementary school music workshop to coax, it felt more like to bully, me into saying that I liked music. I was too young to explain so I remained mute while she played the beginnings of several records on a record turntable. She kept saying, “Do you like this. Do you like this?”. She was quite exasperated with me. I suppose I just kept shaking my head, I know that I did not look at her because she frightened me. She unpleasantly said that there was nothing wrong with my hearing and I should learn to “appreciate” music. What she did not know was that at home, whenever my father, who loved music, tried to play music, my mother would scream angrily and inarticulately as if she were a deaf-mute being beaten until he turned it off. His explanation was that, “She has the screaming meemies.” Soon music had, and sometimes still has, the visceral effect of physically filling me with terror. I rarely listen to music now, because if I am not careful it brings back bad memories. When I was an older child I asked my mother, the keeper of the household purse, if I could take music lessons, as she had and as my father had, and as their parents before them had taken all kinds of music lessons, including voice. My mother said no enough times that I stopped asking. Back then I had no idea why she refused me, but in retrospect I suppose that she did not intend to pay fees, instrument rentals, and endure the noise of music practice. Or perhaps she was just cruel. I used to watch the marching bands that my paternal grandmother organized at the city parks and recreation building that she supervised as Director, and I could see that they all knew things that I did not know, about how to work and how to be together, how to move, how to play. My grandmother, who also played the organ at church and sang, said she could not teach me music because it would be “giving me preference” over the other children she taught; she said that I had enough “more than enough natural ability” as it was; and she said that if she let me participate in her music programs then “Your mother will come around with you, and the way she acts, well, I don’t want to lose my job.” Even as a child I realized that my grandmother had too many excuses, and my mother was the problem.
My only other experience with music in the public school system was early on when I was given wooden sticks every time we marched in a circle “playing” music. I stopped asking for something other than wooden sticks when I realized that all the teacher would give me instead were the sandpaper blocks, which scratched just as unpleasantly as the wooden sticks jarred my little hands.
The exception to my fear of music was when I danced to live music as a young adult, then the venue music traveled up my feet to fill my whole body and swept away the fear leaving pure joy. I love to dance. I learned to dance on my father’s toes. One day my mother was out so my father put some quick-step music, and asked me if I wanted to learn to dance. I did! After that I happily danced for the next sixty years of my life. Sometimes while sitting, I still dance in my chair just to remember the joy.
Caption: Screaming Meemies
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018