Last weekend I received a rare voice message from my 7-year-old niece:
“Aunt Janny, this is Raegan. I have a recipe for you, for Thanksgiving: It’s White Castle stuffing.”
“Yeah, my dad said you should bring it to Thanksgiving.”
After I giggled with Raegan about eating White Castle stuffing, my brother Chris got on the phone and asked me to play a joke on his oldest daughter, Nev, 8.
Me: “Hey, Nev, I heard you were having a piano recital soon — I am soooo excited! Mrs. Sabatino called me and gave me permission to sing along with you while you play!”
Nev: “What?” (She said this sweetly, but mortified.) “My
piano teacher called you?”
Me, with crossed fingers: “Yeah, isn’t that great?”
There was no response from Nev. I can only imagine she was horror-stricken, like walking into her third-grade class and finding out she had a “surprise history report” and her teacher asked her to go first — and oh, by the way, please stand on your head and sing your report in front of the entire school.
Me: “Aren’t you excited? Where and what time should I meet you?”
Nev mustered up a very diplomatic and honest answer: “Well, actually, there are no words to my music.”
Me: “That’s OK.”
Then I added with the enthusiasm of a pageant contestant: “I’m good at making up my own words to songs, like Grandpa Frank.”
Nev, after another pause, carefully and courageously picked her words and attempted not to crush the spirit of her aunt: “Well actually, I was going to play the piece by myself.”
I started to say something like, “Oh, I get it, you don’t WANT me to sing with you.”
But then I couldn’t stand it and burst out: “Nev, I’m sorry, your dad put me up to this. I promise I won’t sing with you.”
After a little coaxing, Nev replied loudly so her dad could hear her part of the phone conversation: “Oh, that’s great Aunt Janet, we can wear matching glittery outfits and 6-inch high heels!”
Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.