2019 Greater Hartford connection
Updated: Jul 13, 2019
[reflection by Mr. Clark] When I was a child, I was very drawn to older people, and derived a lot of comfort and strength from them. Not only my aunt, but certain older teachers and musicians I met created a very important network for me. Now that I have been teaching for several decades, I find that a very important part of my work is dealing with pre-high school children. I only teach a handful of them at this point, but it is very special, forming, in many cases, their first one-to-one relationships with an adult outside their families. I am the organist at a small Congregational church north of Hartford, and last fall a little girl, whom I have seen since she was six or seven years old, brought her oboe to show me. She is a very introverted little girl, at that time just entering fifth grade, and my primary contact with her had been letting her play with my standard poodle after the Sunday service. She started to bring her oboe every time she came to church, about three times a month, and we gradually developed a little relationship. I teach her things about music and tell her how wonderful she is, try to make her feel secure with someone she has only seen as “Dr. Clark, the organist at church.” Relating to someone of a completely different generation can be very liberating. The subtexts, the invidious comparisons and judgements that can affect our relationships with our age peers don’t apply, or at least not in the same way.
I am older than her parents, but she is not beholden to me in the same way. Nor am I a teacher as in school, because she comes when she wants, and stays as long as she wants, and I give her no assignments as such, no grades, of course. “Lily,” I sometimes ask, “Have you had enough for today?” And she answers, very quietly, whatever way she feels. Sometimes she wants to continue playing, sometimes, she wants to go play with Marie-Antoinette, the poodle. It is always up to her. And I get to see the world just a little bit through the eyes of this very earnest, intelligent, sensitive little girl. Lily wanted VERY badly to make the high honor roll, which she finally did the third marking period but, sadly, not the fourth, due to a very questionable B on a history report (which she brought to church for me to read). She came in second in the school-wide spelling bee. Her band teacher told her that she was the BEST fifth-grade oboe player that she has ever had, and Lily told her that she plays after church with the organist.
When I was around Lily’s age, I told my aunt the same kind of stories from my life, and that was very important to me. No one else was going to listen, and I wanted someone to care. Until she died a few years ago at the age of ninety, my aunt and I maintained that close relationship, and I realize how fortunate I was to have an older person who took a special interest in me. At its best, I think that your Grannymani project can foster these kinds of intergenerational relationships that, for certain people, can be so valuable. I think it is a great idea that you will continue to develop, and which will bring a lot of positive energy into this world. Good work!!