I think it was my 4th birthday when an unexpected gift became one of those hallmarks of my life providing interest, practice, and love for literature and music.
As I recall, I opened the package wondering, 'Just what could this be?' It didn't conform to the perceived measurements of any item on my wish list, at least that I could remember. But, even at that age, I was beginning to realize that those 'mystery' gifts could be more exciting and satisfying than anything I'd thought I needed,wanted, or just had to have. In this world, there are some people who possess a special talent for choosing just the right gift you never knew you wanted and hadn't thought of, yet! My mom had that 'gift;' it started with picking a toy I wasn't even aware of, like my Toodles doll, who could drink from her toy baby bottle - and then tinkle (as Mom called it) into her diaper, giving me the opportunity to be the mother of that plastic daughter. Those special and unexpected gifts flowed from my mother's thoughtfulness and empathy during all of my childhood - and adulthood, throughout her life. I love you, Mom.
Birthdays were very important days to me, probably the most anticipated of holidays, after Christmas, that is. My special day, February 3rd, I shared every year with the wedding anniversary of my parents. I, the eldest, was born on their 9th anniversary, a fact that didn't mean much to me as a young child, except that I was always aware of the fact that I'd been a 'gift' for them as they'd wanted children from the day they married in 1934. Military life with the inherent separations, the War, and other unforeseen obstacles had not made procreation possible - until I came along, right smack-dab in the middle of WWII.
Back to that #4 birthday. Just what was in this flat, square and prettily wrapped package? It took only seconds to get through the paper and what did I see? A record album: a group of 78-RPM records, four of them, each tucked into its own cardboard folder (with a circular cutout in the middle to be able to identify each individual disc) for protection of both sides of each record. And, as the album was opened, there was also a story and picture book attached as an actual part of the album that, I was to discover, coordinated with each of the records.
It was "Peter and the Wolf," Op. 67, a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It's a children's story, with both music and text by Prokofiev, spoken by a narrator accompaniment of a symphony orchestra. I was familiar with the story, as Mom and Dad had read it to me and my brother, Jimmy, previously. What could be so special about this album? Well, it didn't take long to find out.
I was directed to the combination radio and 'automatic' record player in the living room. Dad taught me how to insert the 78rpm record into the record slot on the lower portion of the front of the machine. You had to be careful to insert it exactly in the center from left and right, or the hole in the record center would be cattywampus, not lining up with the little popup that held the disc in place making the needle on the player arm unable to locate itself correctly for playing the music.
Well, I inserted the first of the four records and heard the narrator, i.e. conductor, begin the entertainment by telling the audience, i.e. me, that each of the characters in the story would be played by a certain instrument. I lay down on the floor in front of the record player and followed along in the attached picture book as the conductor and the symphony orchestra took me on that first magical ride.
I probably played that series of records hundreds of times over the next few years. I think going along with the story helped me learn to read. And, most of all, the experience made me aware of the instruments in a symphony orchestra and develop a love of music of all kinds that has remained throughout my life.
Well, I can't say what ultimately happened to that album; I know it was well-worn and loved. Perhaps it went to another 4 year old girl or boy to enjoy as much as I had. I went on to take music lessons and play flute in the school band and cello in the school orchestra. I also took some piano lessons along the way. I'm sorry that I've not kept up on my instruments; however, I have my flute here in the RV with me and still intend to take it out and practice.
Here is a YouTube video to give you an idea of how wonderful my "Peter and the Wolf" indoctrination into the world of classical music was . . .
I hope, if you've not seen it before, you enjoy a bit of this symphony.
PS: I've tried to correct the type-spacing error; so far I can't figure out how to do it. Any words of wisdom will be appreciated.