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A slim envelope arrived in the mail. It didn’t look like junk mail and its heft was light.  I turned it over a couple of times and slit it open. Inside, on a single sheet of ruled paper was a crisply-penciled note from my grandniece.  “Dear Mukund Thatha,” it read. “Thank you for coming to my show. I enjoyed dozing off during class with Ms. Quipster. Taarini”

When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail?

Taarini was referring to Sounds of Laughter 2019, an annual show by The Music School in Sunnyvale featuring more than a hundred of its students ranging in age from kindergarteners to high schoolers.

A buzz filled the Spartan Theater as people entered, greeted friends, found seats of their choice and settled in. The diverse crowd was representative of the Bay Area, with a good mix of young and old. Proud parents and grandparents, many armed with cameras, video recorders and smartphones were ready to capture the young ones in action.  Many parents were accompanied by their children – some looking somewhat bored, uninspired perhaps by the prospect of having to watch their siblings perform; a few others were armed with books. Friends of the family looked happy in their role as morale boosters. A few among the audience just had to check out that latest WhatsApp message, respond to a work email or check on the Warriors score in a key playoff game.  

The lights dimmed promptly at seven and the audience settled in.  Rustling and movement could be heard behind the stage curtain. A spotlight turned on to illuminate a corner of the stage. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” asked a disembodied young voice. Two young artistes stepped into the spotlight and trotted onto the stage in full chicken regalia, fluffing their feathers.

Thus started an endearing, fun-filled and joyous evening of songs, dance and skits interspersed with more chicken and Knock-Knock jokes than I’d heard in the last ten years combined. It was inspiring to see and hear these high-energy performers – young and younger – giving their best, teaming in coordination and harmony and entertaining the audience while having great fun themselves.

The song and dance numbers included well-known hits such as Monster Mash, and That’s Amore.  A dramatic rendition of Carole King’s musical version of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue left a strong impression.

There was once a boy named Pierre
Who only would say, “I don’t care!”
Read his story, my friend, for you’ll find
At the end that a suitable
Moral lies there

One day his mother said
When Pierre climbed out of bed
“Good morning, darling boy, you are my only joy”
Pierre said, “I don’t care!

***********

In a skit titled School Daze, the aforementioned Ms. Quipster tried gamely to deal with students who one-upped her with their attitudes and replies to her questions. The Song That Goes Like This was followed by Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow, previously rendered by the Beach Boys and other bands.  In my opinion the true essence of the evening was captured by the finale Happiness:

Happiness is two kinds of ice cream
Finding your skate key, telling the time
Happiness is learning to whistle
Tying your shoe for the very first time
Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band
And happiness is walking hand in hand

Happiness is five different crayons
Knowing a secret, climbing a tree
Happiness is finding a nickel
Catching a firefly, setting him free
Happiness is being alone every now and then
And happiness is coming home again

Happiness is morning and evening
Daytime and nighttime, too
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you

Happiness is having a sister
Sharing a sandwich
Getting along
Happiness is singing together when day is through
And happiness is those who sing with you

Happiness is morning and evening
Daytime and nighttime, too
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you

So, why did the chicken cross the road?

To remind us of all the important little things in life.  To assure us that it’s okay to act silly and have fun. To remind us to be happy with what we have. To feel justifiably proud of the generation that will be our future. To demonstrate what a group of people, young or old, can accomplish when they give of themselves and work together. To reinforce the adage that when you help others you help yourself. To bless us with an enjoyable, fun-filled evening.  And having done all that, to get to the other side!

No, Taarini, it is I who should thank you!

Mukund Acharya spent 40 years on three continents as a professor, scientist, manager and technologist in aerospace. He currently promotes healthy aging and wellness, advocates for patients and their families, and is exploring the use of short stories, photopoetry and blogs to spread the message on the importance of living substantive, impactful, fulfilling and contented lives while giving back to the community.

Happiness lyrics © Johnny Bienstock Music LLC, Songwriters: Bill Anderson

 

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