Memorization

13 Apr

My children have been memorizing words and music for years: Latin, piano, violin, speeches, poems, lyrics.  To the point that now Isabelle can spend less than two days and memorize her parts in three scenes from Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Not me.

A soliloquy from Hamlet, some scales, and a couple marching tunes for clarinet were all I ever had to memorize when I was my daughter’s age. The Lord’s Prayer.  The 23rd Psalm.  Back when I student taught I memorized one chapter (Matt 6) of the sermon on the mount for my own edification.  I kept a couple psalms written out with me when I worked alone in the lab decades ago.

Last fall, before my brother died, I agreed to be part of a gang of people who would memorize one chapter of 1 Corinthians.   I chose chapter 9; the reason why is lost in the mists of time.

Then brother John died. Isaac left for school and has had difficulties of one sort or another ever since, Isabelle has had her own troubles.  All the skill, faith, coping, discipline I command was used for living each day.   The upshot is that memorization fell off the list.  And I felt intimidated.

I read all sorts of versions but could not find one that seemed the best fit.  I started compiling a version for me to use pulling from various translations.

The project kept being pushed back.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas, to after the New Year.  I told the organizer I just could not take part because of all the upheaval in our lives.  She ignored me.  She told me to look at the Holman translation.  So I downloaded that.

Then a young artist who is also a videographer got involved and wanted to film each person saying their chapter. Yikes!

I dutifully read my chapter for two test runs.  Not recited, mind you.  Read. Still thinking I might get out of this.  I had the first couple verses memorized.  Sort of.

But then the date  for filming was set.  Sunday at dawn.  Similar to an execution.  Yes, very similar.

Over the last ten days I started memorizing in earnest.  Note cards, recording myself and listening to it, writing it out, saying it to Isabelle and Jay and having them provide nudges to get me going when I got stuck.

Awake at 2.05AM, 3AM, 3.45AM, 4.10AM 4.22AM, 4.50AM, 5AM.  I finally got up at 5.11AM Sunday.  Dressed, recited the best I could, worked on a couple passages that still gave trouble–all the bits about authority and his not using it in various ways–made some coffee cake and waited for Karen to show up.  She wanted to film me at dawn.  I talked her into doing it up on the hill in the alfalfa field behind our home.

It was about 5o degrees F, still with very slight gusts of breeze, and cloudy.  There was no sunrise.

I recited the whole chapter once.  Using my cheat sheet a few times out of sight of the camera.  Remembering those professional musicians with their music we listened to Friday night.

Karen filmed me reciting two parts as I walked towards and away from camera.  One part I knew.  One not so well known.

She was kind and thought I did a good job.

But it is done.  Over.  Finis. Hurrah!

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