It was the last class of the day. “Band Class!” Lizzy thought to herself, rushing to leave her Social Studies class, to get to a class she actually enjoyed.
Elizabeth Dyck, known as “Lizzy” to almost everyone, had moved to town with her mother, two sisters, and brother a few months ago. Lizzy was shorter than most of the girls in her grade, and, because of her shy, introverted nature, she had not yet made many friends at school.
Lizzy’s locker was on the way to band class. Stopping at her locker, she grabbed her music, and her oboe. She was the only oboe player in her band class, and in fact, the school. Back at her old school, Lizzy had tried several instruments, before selecting the oboe to play in band in the next grade. It had a melancholy tone which Lizzy related to. At the time she had chosen the oboe, her parents had just split up, and her Mom was talking about moving away and getting a fresh start. Lizzy, being quiet and shy, hadn’t made many friends at her old school. Her brother, Dustin, had been mercilessly teased and bullied, and, more so than Lizzy, looked forward to the move. Lizzy’s other sisters, Jodi and Katelyn, however, were moving away from their long-time friends, and were upset by the move. Jodi had managed to make friends quickly upon arriving in their new town, but Katelyn, who could be stand-offish, was struggling.
It was December, a few days before the band class would perform in their first Christmas concert. Lizzy’s beginner Grade 7 band class was going to perform five easy Christmas songs to start the concert. Lizzy was nervous, since her band teacher, Mr. Spielman, seated her front and center, between the flutes and clarinets. Being front and center was not in Lizzy’s nature, and gave her anxiety.
Thankfully, the two girls who sat next to her in band class were friendly enough. Corrine Van den Berg was, like Lizzy, shorter and shy for her age. They could relate, in that neither wanted to be front and center, but took comfort they were there together. On Lizzy’s other side, Jerrah King played clarinet. She had learned clarinet from her father, and was well ahead of the class. Lizzy and Corrine looked to her for leadership.
Mr. Spielman liked to start class five minutes after the first bell. This gave the students enough time to assemble their instruments, and warm up a little.
Tap, Tap, Tap , Mr. Spielman rapped on his music stand with his baton. Normally, he would begin class by tuning the band, playing a B-flat on a nearby piano. Today, however, he had planned on something different.
“Bob,” Mr. Spielman said, talking to the tuba player. “Can you play a B-flat for us?”
Bob tried, but the pitch was significantly flat, which Mr. Spielman heard, and saw on his tuner.
“Push your mouthpiece in a bit please, Bob,” Mr. Spielman instructed. Bob did, and as he played the note again, Mr. Spielman turned his tuner around in his hand so Bob could see. Still a bit flat.
“A bit more, Bob,” he encouraged. Bob played the note again, and a clear green light showed at the centre of the tuner.
“Until now, I’ve played B-flat on the piano, so we could try tuning our instruments,” Mr. Spielman explained. “Most bands, as they learn, choose a low-pitched instrument to tune to. Today, we are going to learn to tune our instruments to Bob. I can’t bring the piano into our Christmas concert, so we will spend a few minutes learning this skill every day in class from now on. Bob, play B-flat again.”
Bob played B-Flat continuously, while Mr. Spielman went around the band class, asking each instrument group to try to tune to Bob’s note. He worked from the lower-pitched instruments at the back of the class, then up toward the front row.
“I nearly forgot Lizzy,” Mr. Spielman remarked, kindly, after the flutes and clarinets had been tuned. Lizzy played a slightly sharp note, and was told to pull her reed out a bit. Lizzy didn’t want to go too far, so it took several attempts to adjust the reed so the instrument played in tune. She was embarrassed, hearing her classmates talk about how much time she took.
“You were closer than Bob was to begin with,” Jerrah whispered, encouragingly.
Mr. Spielman, having finished tuning the band, started running through the five Christmas songs they were going to play at the concert. They were all simple songs they all knew from singing them in elementary school. They had spent nearly half the class tuning, and the class itself was only 50 minutes long. After playing the Christmas songs, and with a few minutes left in the class, Mr. Spielman let them start putting away their instruments. It took Lizzy, Corrine, and Jerrah only a minute to put away their small instruments, which gave them some time to talk.
“I wish I wasn’t the only oboe,” Lizzy said, wishfully. “It’s tough playing by yourself.”
“True, but you can’t get annoyed when your sectionmates play wrong notes,” Jerrah explained, rolling her eyes while talking about the other, less adept clarinet players. Jerrah was also one of the smartest people in their grade, which gave her a general sense of confidence. It didn’t, however, help her make friends, since she was also labeled a know-it-all.
“I’m glad I get to play in a large section,” Corrine said. “I’d be nervous if I had to play alone.”
“Tell me about it,” Lizzy replied, acknowledging it was difficult.
The last bell rang, and Lizzy headed back to her locker, before heading home. Jerrah followed Lizzy to her locker.
“So, I was wondering, with you being new to town, if you wanted to come over to my place tonight after supper? I think we live close to each other. I live in the house three doors behind the gift shop, with the hedge,” Jerrah blurted out quickly and nervously.
Lizzy lived in the apartment above a quiet gift shop on main street. Jerrah had probably seen Lizzy going home a few times while going home herself. “I live in the apartment above the gift shop,” Lizzy replied, quietly, not knowing how Jerrah would react. It was a great apartment, but an unusual place to live.
“Neat,” Jerrah replied. “Do you get to play in the store after hours?”
“No,” Lizzy explained. “We have a separate entrance at the back. I like my new home. It’s large, and quiet. No loud neighbors like back in the city.”
“Do you like it here?” Jerrah asked.
“Yah,” Lizzy replied, shyly. “I wasn’t sure how starting over would be, in a small place like this. I just like how I can do my thing, and nobody bugs me. Most people leave me alone, and I’m OK with that.”
“I’m not bugging you, am I?” Jerrah asked. She wanted to be friends with Lizzy, and didn’t want to do something that would discourage Lizzy from becoming her friend.
“No,” Lizzy replied. “I’m glad when I can talk with you and Corrine. It’s been a bit lonely.”
“Well, let me know if you can come over tonight.” Jerrah gave Lizzy her number, and started walking home.
“Can I walk home with you?” Lizzy asked.
“Sure!” Jerrah replied, more certain she was making a new friend.
It was a 10-minute walk from the school to the street the girls lived on. Lizzy and Jerrah talked about Lizzy’s family on the walk home. Jerrah didn’t know that Jodi, in grade 8, was Lizzy’s sister. Lizzy’s other two siblings, Dustin and Katelyn, were still in elementary school. Lizzy’s mother, Helen Dyck, had picked them up from their school, which was farther away, before she needed to go to work at Mario’s Pizza, as a waitress.
“I thought your mom might be the waitress my Uncle Mario hired,” Jerrah answered, smiling.
“Your Uncle’s Mario!” Lizzy exclaimed. “He’s so nice to my family!”
“Well, he said your mom’s had a tough time, and he wanted your family to feel welcome,” Jerrah explained.
“It was tough at first, but we got used to being here,” Lizzy explained. “My Dad made sure we had the support we need, including a great place to live. And Mom makes more money here, since the restaurant is busier, and she makes more tips. Everyone except my sister Katelyn likes this town better.”
“That’s good,” Jerrah said, now in front of her house. “You have my number. Call me. I’m free after 6:00.” Jerrah waved goodbye, and entered her house.
Jerrah had heard her Uncle Mario talk about his new waitress and her family, that had moved to town. “There are four kids,” her uncle explained to Jerrah at Thanksgiving. “Three girls and a boy. The oldest girl is a little older than you. And one girl is younger than you. ‘Hard-headed and stubborn,’ her mother says. The boy is youngest, at 9. He’s already made some good friends who like camping and the outdoors,” her Uncle finished.
“I thought there were three girls, Uncle Mario?” Jerrah asked.
“Oh, right,” Jerrah’s uncle corrected himself. “Helen said Lizzy had just gone into grade 7, like you! She’s very shy, though. As strong as her older sister is, Lizzy is timid. Helen also said Lizzy doesn’t seem to want to grow up. Helen said she had to protect and comfort her, and Lizzy still wants to be comforted, like she was little.”
After her Uncle had described Lizzy, Jerrah knew exactly who he was talking about. Lizzy was a bit strange. At school, she wore less mature clothing with kids designs, occasionally even wearing a dress, like she was going to Sunday School or something. She was shorter than almost all the girls in school, and wore her hair in pigtails or braids, like she better belonged in kindergarten. Jerrah initially thought Lizzy was strange too, but Lizzy’s childlike innocence had grown on Jerrah.
Jerrah had been an only child, until three years ago. Her mother had remarried, and her step-father and mother had a new baby. Both her mother and step-father were kind, and loved Jerrah, but it wasn’t the same now that her little sister Jenny was part of her family. Jerrah hadn’t been expected to take care of the baby, but she did occasionally help feed and diaper Jenny when she wanted. Jerrah loved her little sister, but was a little jealous of the attention her sister was getting. Her parents had always pushed Jerrah to achieve, and being pushed all the time was starting to wear on Jerrah. She envied her sister Jenny, for the carefree life she had. Jenny got to play or watch TV all day. Her parents fed and dressed Jenny, and gave her lots of new toys to keep her busy and help her learn. Jenny was even potty trained now, aside from accidents at night. Jerrah and Jenny shared a room, and Jerrah sometimes helped Jenny get ready for bed. Jerrah would lay her sister on the changing table, and powder and diaper her, before choosing a cute outfit for her to wear to bed. It reminded Jerrah of how her parents had gotten her ready for bed, until she turned eight.
“Trade you places,” Jerrah thought to herself.