‘Tis the season when we gather together to honor and celebrate an iconic musical institution: the annual school Autumn Harvest concert. There is one concert in our family’s history that I wish I could say I remember well. In 2010, Elsie was a senior and Nick was a freshman in high school. It was the only year that they would appear in school concerts together, and at this first concert of the year, both had a solo, Elsie in chorus and Nick on the saxophone. This was hugely exciting and I wouldn’t miss it for anything, not even if I sustained a serious head injury. Hint: that was foreshadowing. Keep reading.
It was also a year when I was working two jobs, as an English teacher at the kids’ high school and as a regular contributor to the local newspaper, and so obviously, I was an overworked, overstimulated, undernourished, sleep-deprived lunatic. Let’s just say there were a lot of variables at work when I cracked my head open on a kitchen cabinet door the night of the annual Autumn Harvest concert.
But you want the blow-by-blow, don’t you? I guess I can’t blame you. We all love a good horror story. So here it is: Children have to eat supper. I don’t normally provide this meal, or any meal, because my husband is Italian and cooks wondrous feasts. But my husband also works for a living, and on the night of the concert, he was going to be late, and so I had to provide food. I am not good at this.
That night, there was a lot of activity in the kitchen. I was attempting to make something, maybe it was scrambled eggs? I can’t remember, mostly due to the head injury. And the kids were also trying to make meals for themselves that would taste better than whatever guilt-induced garbage I was trying to throw together. So, pans were simmering on the stovetop, dishes cluttered the table, the toaster oven was toasting and the microwave was microwaving, and, amid the chaos, some kitchen cabinet doors were open, and some were closed. In the frenzy of activity, it was hard to keep track of which was which.
I crouched down to get a pan from the lower cabinet, and then, moving quickly because we were late and if I didn’t hurry we would never get to the concert on time, I shot up like a rocket from my crouched position, and pan in hand, hit the open cabinet door above me head on. I mean, literally, head on. I saw stars, and then blood. The pan clanged to the floor.
The edge of the cabinet door had made perfect contact with the part in my hair (to ensure that later, the gaping head wound would be impossible to cover with hair) and blood started pouring from my scalp. Oh my God, we are going to be late for this concert, I thought. It never occurred to me, not for one instant, that I wouldn’t be in my seat watching Elsie and Nick perform their solos.
There was a flurry of activity after that. Piles of cotton batting were retrieved from a bag of costume materials kept in the deep, dark recesses of an overcrowded linen closet. A thick headband that looked really cool on a teenager but ridiculous on a 40-year-old was used to hold the cotton on the bleeding gash. The kids put on their performance tuxedos, my head wound was only seeping a little blood through the headband, and we all made our way to the school together, with Elsie in the driver’s seat since I was also pretty sure that I had also sustained a concussion.
Elsie and Nick went straight to the music room and I went to leave lesson plans on my desk for the substitute who would have to be called in to cover for me the next day. As I made my way down the corridor to the auditorium, a music teacher stopped and asked me how to pronounce a word she needed to say in one of her introductory speeches about a rather spooky song. This was October, pre-Halloween, remember. She showed it to me, and luckily, I could read it and knew the answer immediately.
The word was “macabre.” On a trip to Disney World the previous summer, I pronounced the word “MAC-aber” in conversation and my mother said, “Don’t you mean, ‘Ma-CAHB?’” We all had a good laugh about the words that we read but don’t normally hear spoken, like, when she was young, she thought Nancy Drew’s dog’s name was pronounced “TORN-ado,” and I always thought a football gridiron was pronounced, “GRID-erron.” Luckily, the Disney “macabre” episode stood out in my mind, because nothing else did, and my teacher-friend said to me, “Kristin, you don’t look good. What is wrong with you?”
I explained about the gaping head wound and blood seeping through the cotton batting under the ridiculous headband, and she told me that I ought to go to the emergency room, but I said I couldn’t because of the concert and the solos, and so she called two students over to accompany me to my seat in the auditorium because she understood perfectly because she has kids, too.
Both Elsie and Nick did marvelous jobs, as did all the performers, and attending the concert was a far better choice than sitting in the emergency room. In fact, when we all got home and I suggested to my husband that maybe I should go in and see if I needed stitches, he responded that they would probably have to shave my head to stitch me up, and that decided that.
And so, as we head into the holidays, home of another iconic musical institution: the annual school winter concert, I advise you all to slow down, even though I probably won’t, and I wish you all happiness and health, joy and music, and a season free of head injuries and stupid headbands.