The winter of my discontent

>> Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Although the children and I were very happy living in Montana, my husband never seemed to be able to find contentment anywhere we lived. I was never sure why he was so restless and discontented, but it was beginning to wear on me. I grew weary with moving, especially since we had finally moved to a place where I could see myself settling down. I wasn't at all opposed to leaving Florida, as I never grew to like it, but leaving Montana was an entirely different matter altogether. I was making friends and becoming well-known in the community. I had a studio full of piano and voice students, and I had a good reputation as a music teacher. I loved the climate, despite the harsh and difficult winters, and I absolutely loved living close to the Rocky Mountains. He tried several times to move us from Billings, but I dug my heels in and refused.

Finally an opportunity opened up in a church in a small town just 15 minutes from where we went to college, in Oklahoma, and it was only and hour from my hometown and where my parents still lived. I agreed to look into it, although reluctantly despite all of the perks. Two things finally persuaded me to leave the home in Montana that I loved so much--April 19th, 1995, the day of the dreadful bombing attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and the fact that my mother was in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer and I wanted to be near her. I also felt that it was important that the children have time to be with her. Since they were born we had always lived over a thousand miles from my parents, and they needed to be nearer to their grandparents.

So we moved again. This time I swore it would be the last move for a very long time. By the time we had been married 14 years, we had already moved ten times. Almost from the first day we arrived in McLoud, Oklahoma I knew I was going to hate it. Once again, I didn't fit. I never fit into the small, rural setting. I was a classical musician who sang opera and loved Mozart. I had absolutely nothing in common with the people in our congregations and I never made friends easily because of it. I tried to fit in, but it was like putting a square peg in a round hole. I was also growing increasingly impatient with the state of my marriage. I tried to express to my husband how unhappy I was, but he never seemed to get it.

After we had been in McLoud for about a year, our church called a new minister of music. He was the new voice faculty member at Oklahoma Baptist University and he and his wife (I will call them "S" and "L"), were my kind of people! He had a beautiful voice and had been on the opera and oratorio circuit. His wife was an intelligent, educated, classy, and artistic woman and we had so much in common that we became fast friends. Their friendship was for me like an oasis in the desert. It wasn't long before "S" began to recognize that I had talents that were going unused and he told me that I really needed to consider studying voice again. He asked if I would like to study privately with him. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! My first few lessons were extremely frustrating as it had been so long since I had sung seriously. And of course I started with some very difficult Mozart arias. After a few weeks of lessons I had made enough progress that he entered me in a district NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competition, in the adult category. Although I didn't make the finals, I did very well and I went away from the competition feeling very good about my progress. Interesting too, that the aria I sang in the competition was Susanna's aria from Act IV of Le Nozze di Figaro, Deh vieni non tardar. One of the judges stopped me in the hallway later that day and told me that it was one of the sweetest performances of that aria that he'd ever heard. He added that I sang it as if Mozart had composed it for me.

We were in McLoud for three years when my husband received an opportunity to pastor a larger, more prestigious church in the southwestern part of Oklahoma. By this time he was being groomed by the state convention leaders for state leadership and this was an opportunity for him to move up. His salary was considerably higher and he had better benefits. Although I loved "S" and "L" and hated moving away from them, I relished the opportunity to get out of McLoud. I decided to continue with my voice lessons as it was only about an hour's drive from where we moved. "L" also got me a job as an exhibitor with the Oklahoma Arts Institute and I spent several weekends a month traveling around the state exhibiting and assisting in auditions for the Summer Arts Institute at the Quartz Mountain resort. Before long "S" suggested that I think about going back to school to get my master's degree. It had always been my desire to go to graduate school. I had put my husband through his master's degree and most of his doctorate, and my youngest child, Nathan, was about to enter the first grade. It seemed to me like the perfect opportunity and time to do it. However, when I discussed it with my husband, he was very reluctant. I explained to him that it would only be for two years and then perhaps I could get a job teaching in Oklahoma City or at the nearby college in Chickasha. I would have to commute to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater because they were the only ones who offered a degree in vocal performance and pedagogy, and it was the pedagogy part in which I was most interested. I was nearing forty and was too old to have a career in performance, but I could still teach. It would also mean that I would have to give up some of my responsibilities in the church for a couple of years. I would no longer be able to direct the children's choir, teach Sunday School, or sing in the choir--but only for two years, I reminded him. Finally he agreed and I was accepted into the graduate program at OSU to start in the fall of 1999.

For the first time since my youth I began to feel vital again. I was singing well and my music was returning to me stronger than it had ever been. I also felt that something really "big" was about to happen. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I had this sense that my life was about to change and that I was about to enter into a new adventure. It was beyond going back to school. There was a restlessness, an urgency, a feeling that I was about to walk off of a cliff. Little did I know that I was about to meet someone who would change the course of my life forever. Winter was almost over.



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