My Cagey Granddaughter

Spending an afternoon in my home with my 10-year-old granddaughter consists of lots of plain old horsing around – by her, not me. I just tag along.

Then there is the required snack time: in this case eating macaroons that she brings with her. No, this tale is not going to warp into some Proust-like discourse on memories of things past. Oh wait, it does! But it has nothing to do with the macaroons; rather with Beethoven’s music Für Elise. Although, really, a macaroon does play a part in this story.

Let me stop my horsing around with this tale and get right to it. First, she plays the piano very well – and this is not just a doting grandfather talking. Well, of course it is, but you know what I mean. Indeed, she is learning Beethoven’s difficult piece in the original score (not one of those watered-down easy-to-play versions for kids). Second, I’m sitting next to the piano as she starts playing Ludwig’s tune, while she’s still munching on her macaroon. Yes, she’s biting off snippets of the macaroon while going through snippets of the sheet music. A bite of the macaroon, a few bars of Für Elise, a bite of the macaroon, a few bars of music… back & forth.

See what I mean by horsing around? A grouchy grandparent might reprimand her in exasperation. So, what do I do?

As I sit watching her performance, I’m transported back myriad decades to a John Cage concert that I attended during my university years in the mid-1960s. It was an afternoon, in a small hall on the campus, and I was in the last row looking down at the stage. Cage was seated at a piano on a round stool with wheels and he began playing music which, as far as I could tell, was improvised. He displayed lots of skillful arpeggios up and down the keyboard, requiring that he and the stool had to move back and forth along the 88 keys. In addition to the sound of music coming from the piano strings, the stool let out a constant barrage of squeaky notes as the accompaniment. After all, this was a “John Cage concert.”

I swear this is a true story. Indeed, I remember that, at one point, I couldn’t help myself and I laughed out loud – only to be reprimanded by some very serious concertgoers who turned around and gave me, what I called at the time, a dirty look.

Blinking my eyes, and thus coming back to my granddaughter’s afternoon performance, there’s no dirty look by me at her antics. Just a joyful smile directed both at her cagey concert for me and my memory of that “other” afternoon performance ages ago. Indeed, I’m delighted to realize that her horsing around has led to this most amusing and insightful recollection.

And, if you ask me, I’d say the famed John Cage was horsing around too.

david r. topper
David R. Topper is a published writer living in Winnipeg, Canada. His work has appeared in Mono, Poetic Sun, Discretionary Love, Academy of the Heart & Mind, and elsewhere.
Synchronized Chaos Magazine nominated his poem Seascape with Gulls: My Father's Last Painting to Sundress Publications as a 2023 Best of the Net.

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