In high school, one of my closest friends was a boy from Argentina
whose name was Jose. We were quite close and would spend a lot of time together, as friends do.
I remember one afternoon we were hanging out at a small beach on the Rideau River, long since closed due to water pollution. It was a pleasant day. Listening to the radio, while drying off, we heard an announcement of a coup d'etat in his home. I was a little concerned, trying to imagine what it would be like for me, in some other country, to hear that the government of Canada had been overthrown--but, of course, I couldn't; things don't work that way in Canada.
Jose wasn't perturbed at all, in fact, he was quite undisturbed by it at all; he said this sort of thing happened rather a lot, and one of the main reasons he and his family came to Canada was to avoid that sort of thing.
Another episode with Jose I remember, occurred in a music class we shared.
I played clarinet, and he played bass clarinet. Jose's instrument is a large, ungainly sort of thing, that worked not at all well with Jose, who was also rather large and ungainly. And his technical skills were not very good either.
One day, we all were at work playing--or trying to play--Oh, Canada, our national anthem. It was a rocky experience. The music teacher, with a reputation for losing his temper in the past, was clearly building up to 'blow his top' yet again.
He railed on about how, "In America, and all other countries, music students are required to memorize their national anthems." And that "it was a disgrace that Canadian music students couldn't play their national anthem."
On and on he went, getting hotter by the moment, turning redder and redder. He asked each of us, one by one, where we were born, and responding, "you should be ashamed!" as we said Canada. But as he approached Jose, we all--at least Jose and I--knew what Jose's answer would be.
As he got closer to Jose, Jose cringed, clearly wanting to disappear, dreading the explosion that was to come.
When the music teacher got to Jose, who, in his awkwardness was the teacher's target all along, we thought he would explode. . . . .
When put the question, Jose replied, "I was born in Argentina." None of us breathed.
The teacher, red-faced already, unable to redden any further, sputtered momentarily.
I will always remember he then, rather unbelievably, caught himself, realized the ass he had made of himself, and apologized.
It was, in fact, a stupid mistake, given that the high school, Lisgar Collegiate in Ottawa, has always had an international student body, with many children of diplomats, as well a refugees like Jose.
However, now, as a piano teacher, I have a different perspective than my high school music teacher of so long ago. I an understand the temption to give in to the inpulse to explode in anger--it can be a great relief to repeated, identical errors in same, identical places in the same pieces.
But I strive to find the humor in each student, in each error; I never want to be the object of reflection of some student in the future, as I have reflected upon him.