Mondays are our “Nelson days”. Today was a typical one. We leave home at 9 am. From 10:30 to 12 noon we have appointments and/or errands. Then we eat lunch (I pack a lunch at home … soon we’ll be eating in the park; through the winter we eat in the van). Our weekly family meeting occurs at lunch, sometimes at a café if we have enough extra time for coffee or steamed almond milk. Then we grocery shop. After that it’s off to piano lessons. Noah has his lesson. Then while Erin’s having hers, Fiona and I run Noah and Sophie to choir. Boys’ Choir is first. Then Fio’ and I run back to pick Erin up. Sophie starts Girls’ Choir. I get to choir practice with Erin and Fiona. Erin is in Intermediate Choir which rehearses last. After the last choir rehearsal, we head home, arriving at about 7:09 pm. A long day! Fiona (almost 27 months) is generally a cheerful tagalong. She knows the routine well, and though nothing directly involves her, she has great fun feeling like she’s a part of the whole day.
Today when we arrive at the church during Girls’ Choir, Fiona asks “My turn choir?”
“Yes, when you’re older you can be in choir!”
“My turn choir,” she says, nodding.
Girls’ Choir finishes. Erin goes up as the Intermediate Choir assembled. They start their warmups.
“My turn choir,” says Fiona. “You take me mommy.”
“Maybe when you’re bigger. That’s Erin’s choir,” I whisper.
Choir rehearsals are held in a nice large church sanctuary. Two or three parents are usually there to listen. The kids are well-behaved and hard-working. The Intermediate Choir numbers about 15 girls from age 11 to 15 and they are way up on the raised area behind the altar, in the choir pews.
Fiona begins toddling up the steps towards the choir. She sidles into the middle pew, the one behind Erin, right at the end, about 3 feet from the last choir member in that row. She’s quiet as a mouse. She sits there with a serious look of concentration on her face, watching the director, listening to the choir, with her tiny little feet sticking out straight just barely beyond the edge of the pew.
Allison, the wonderful choir director, makes a little comment to the choir about how quiet Fiona is.
“I have a 3-year-old,” she says, “and I wouldn’t even want him in the building during a rehearsal. Look how perfectly quiet she is. Amazing!”
But that’s just the beginning. The first warm-ups are over. Fiona’s still sitting, paying close attention. Allison gets the girls to stand up to sing a first piece. Fiona stands. And stays standing for the 5 or 10 minutes they work on the piece. She’s so tiny I can only see the top of her head behind the pew in front of her. Allison can’t believe her — she turns around a grins at me. Then they sit. Fiona turns around, climbs up on the pew (it’s a long way up for her!), and sits.
I’m just grinning from ear to ear. Sophie and Noah are laughing quietly. Fiona is so sweet. The choir is working section by section on parts-singing. She’s still sitting up there, ever so seriously, doing what she calls “my turn choir”. I quietly sneak up the steps to the end of the pew.
“Are you done?” I whisper to Fiona.
“No,” she whispers back. I sneak back down.
The choir is smiling, loving this. They stand again to sing. She stands. They sing for a long time. It’s a couple of hours past Fiona’s usual nap time and I can see she’s flagging. She’s still standing but she’s laying her head on the seat. They sit. I look at her, smiling, and give her a little wave.
She’s been up there for about 20 minutes. She decides her turn is over and toddles quietly back down the steps. Sophie walks out to meet her and give her a hug. The choir girls are just in raptures over the whole thing, so the whole choir and the director are waiting for her to take her seat in the audience before going on with their rehearsal. At the last second, Fiona trips, the combined effect of new sandals and the sloping of the church aisle, and hits her head on the first pew. There’s a small gasp from the choir. Fiona holds in the wail until I get her out of the sanctuary — well, almost, anyway.
A few minutes later she’s happy again, with a small egg in the centre of her forehead. “I do my turn choir,” she tells me, with a big grin on her face.
After rehearsal is over, Allison tells me how amazing Fiona is. I laugh and jokingly say “Yeah, but by the time she’s actually old enough to be in the choir, she’ll probably be a hellion.”
“Ah, maybe,” says Allison, “but at least we had today.”