Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Closet

Once upon a time, long ago when I was younger I had this music teacher.  His name was friendly like Mr. Griswold or Mr. Claus or Mr. Happy.  He had a beard and a belly that shook like a bowl full of jelly.  He was like a grandpa, like the grandpa in the Werther's commercial.  He had a booming voice and if you were a kid you liked him and if you were an adult you liked him.  He was just that kind of man.  Friendly.

Not one of us students hated music.  We sang and fought over who would play the triangle or the mini-cymbals.  No one wanted to play the sticks because they were sticks.  Glorified building blocks.  They cost five times more than the building blocks that sat in the kindergarten classroom and that somehow made them magical musical sticks.

It was all fun and games in music until someone was caught doing something wrong and then they went into 'The Closet', an understated chocky if you will.  A dark, small room with shelves to the ceiling that housed all the music books and the triangles and the mini cymbals and the magical music sticks.  If for some reason you were caught talking out of turn or being disruptive he would point to 'The Closet' and you would sit in a small red chair with the door closed, in the dark, till class ended or he saw fit to let you out.

I sat in 'The Closet' once.  I being so young and so not afraid of the dark.  I took my punishment like a man.  Or a very brave, sad child.  I never told my parents or my teacher.  Not that they'd say anything.  How could they not know about 'The Closet' and the dark and the dust and the small red chair and the magical music sticks?  My small mind went on the notion that if a few knew then everybody must know.  And it didn't matter much anyway.

Until one day when our music teacher wasn't in school and people were whispering and news trucks were at our school and a helicopter flew overhead and we all learned someone found out about 'The Closet' and they didn't like it very much.  The dark was too dark and the books were too high on the shelf and once removed from the light of day magical music sticks were just very expensive building blocks.

And all at once those adults who we thought knew about 'The Closet' were horrified.  And the children were escorted into rooms to talk about their experience in 'The Closet' and how we felt and what we did.  Was the dark too dark and was the red chair too red.  And to judge if we were forever damaged by a small dark room with shelves so high.

Weeks past and our friendly music teacher came back and never again did one of us go into 'The Closet'.  Life went on.  And today I think about the child who came home and told their mom or their dad.  And how that mom and dad felt.  What made that parent take action?  What made that parent know that it wasn't okay to stick a small child in a dark room, in a red chair with books and shelves?
 Because a hundred parents must have heard about 'The Closet' and a hundred parents didn't feel it was worth the effort.  Or that it was a big deal.  Children play magical music sticks and make up stories about dark closets with red chairs that are too red.  And if a child had to sit in 'The Closet' well there probably was a good reason for it anyway.

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