I want you to imagine this. Go on, closeyour eyes. Don’t be frightened, it’s just a little maritimenightmare. Now, let yourself drift off to the Gulf of Mexico. Waitersand pursers are being bandied about the highly polished decks at thewhim of the swells, passengers are roaming the promenade for air, andtaking a dip in the pool, whether or not that was predetermined. Thenthink of me, in my cabin, facing the balcony with an appetizing waterview mimicking creamed spinach. The ship is rocking, the waves arerocking, my room is rocking, and there I stand, violin in hand, musicsheets flying alternately off the stand to the beat of the choppedspinach, trying desperately to get in an hour of practice. You see, aweek after returning from this family trip, I was scheduled to play atCarnegie Recital Hall in New York City. I’m a professionalviolinist. Practicing for concerts is what I do. Not practicing duringvacation was not an option.
We specifically chose a cruisebecause the violin could remain in a safe place and not be in danger ofhigh air cabin pressure. A cruise was leisurely; there’d be timeand space to practice without disturbing anyone. After all, who stays intheir cabin during the day? But who practices the violin on a cruise?The first day was quite a wake-up call.
I set up my stand, placedthe music on it, and began my scales. A page fell. I bent to pick it up.Then the whole book fell. I bent down again, but on the upswing,proceeded to knock over the stand. I resurrected my altar of intervalsand chords and began again. I got as far as one three-octave scalebefore I felt nauseated.
“Jourdy, how’s the practicegoing? Are you set up in there?” my mother called from thecorridor.
I was so queasy, I heard, “Are you upset inthere?”
“Yes, I’m very upset. I’mnauseated, I’m dizzy and my violin sounds like a 12-year-old isplaying it.”
“You are 12.”
“Mom,you know what I mean,” I answered indisgust.
“I’m coming in,” my mothercalled.
And I’m goin’ out, Ithought.
“Now what exactly is the problem? You have peaceand quiet, you had a wonderful morning of activities, your brotherisn’t around to bother you,” my momsermonized.
“Mom, I didn’t realize it would beimpossible to practice on a moving object! The space is small, the floormoves, I move, the bow moves, but nothing in the same direction. I feellike vomiting.”
“Who knew?” Mom pondered thescenario. “Okay. Let’s go.”
“Let’sgo? Go where?”
“We’re going on aperegrination.”
“A falcon? We’re going on afalcon?” Mom had definitely lost it. She had birds on the brain.The thought of my not being able to practice for the next seven days haddone her in.
“What are you talking about?” Mom askedimpatiently. “Not on a peregrine - a peregrination. We’regoing on a journey to find a big, quiet space where there’s lessmovement. We’ll ask the purser.”
I put my hands to myforehead and shook back and forth like a yeshiva student. “Mom, wecan’t march around the largest sea-going vessel in America withscores of music and a violin.”
“What? You’reworried about what the neighbors will think? I have news for you, theneighbors are all having margaritas on donkeys on the Mexican turnpike.Nobody cares that you’re marching around with aviolin.”
So off we went to find a suitable practice room.It was harder than finding empty rehearsal space at Juilliard on aSaturday because all of Mom’s donkey-riding neighbors seemed to beback on board. We walked up and down five flights of stairs and in andout of several lounges. People were everywhere! What were they doinghere in the middle of the afternoon? Flick, shoo, get out of here, gohave some fun. It’s Mexico!
We finally approached thepurser’s desk. Mom said he could take care of everything, that hewas very efficient.
“Uh, Mom? That guy on the right, wouldthat be senor purser?”
“Yes. He’ll have ananswer.”
“But, Mom, he’s wearing reindeerears.”
“I know, dear, sowhat?”
“Mom, they’re furry andred.”
“Yes, dear, I see, but it’s Christmas andhe’s just getting into the spirit of things.”
It wastoo late, we were at his desk.
“Excuse me, we’ve beentraveling around the ship for quite some time looking for a quiet placewhere my son can practice his violin.”
“Yes, he’svery good, why?”
“Well, maybe he’d like toentertain passengers on the Cucaracha deck. There’s a stagethere.”
I peered over the railing to check out the stage.All I saw were people dancing with multicolored sombreros and Zorro-likemustaches singing “Hey, hey, olay!” Definitely New Yorkers.I ran back to the desk and exclaimed, “No, no, that’s notthe spot for me.”
“Well,” said the reindeerman, “there are no quiet places without passengers. It’s aholiday cruise. We’re packed and every room has something goingon. Why don’t you just practice in yourcabin?”
“Because I get seasick in there. I thinkI’d feel better in a larger space.”
“I thinkyou’d feel better with some antlers. Here. They’ll put youin the mood.”
For what? “Oh yeah, Mom,” Iwhispered. “He’s sure got everything undercontrol.”
“Are you sure that’s all you cando?” my mom asked politely.
“Well, no, actuallyhere’s a pair of antlers for you too, ma’am. MerryChristmas!”
My mom looked at me with a mixture of fear andresignation. I could tell she was about to make a very wise utterancebrought on, no doubt, by the image of my dad’s face when he sawher in full reindeer regalia.
“Either we go back to theroom and put the violin away for the rest of vacation, or we join thefrolicking sombreros on the Cucaracha deck, you don a mustache, andbecome their personal minstrel.”
“Really, Mom? Nopractice?”
“Really. What do you have to say tothat?”
I turned toward the purser. “Lemme have thoseears!”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.