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Laurie Niles

August 11, 2003 at 5:28 AM

I’m beginning to feel like a big nag trying to convince a seven-year-old student that she needs to continue playing the pieces she has learned.

“Do you know what ‘rusty’ means?” I asked her today. She didn’t. I guess things don’t get rusty in Southern California. “It’s when you leave your car outside in the rain and never drive it and it gets this brown crusty stuff all over and one day you try to start it and it won’t even go.”

“Oh,” she said without changing expression.

I clearly needed to take a different tack.

“Let me explain something to you. Your fingers are just not as smart as your head is,” I said. “You can learn something in your head and remember it, but your fingers need to be reminded every single day. They are very forgetful. They are not too smart.”

She liked this better.

“My fingers are not very smart?” she asked.

“That’s right,” I told her.

“How about my toes?” she said, pointed to her little toes, sticking out of her sandals.

“Not smart.”

She continued in this vein. What about my arms? My elbow? My knees? My hair?

“Just like your fingers,” I said. “Not smart.”

She thought for a moment.

“What about my heart?” she asked, putting both of her small brown hands over her heart.

“Your heart,” I said, smiling. I wasn’t expecting that one. “Your heart is smart. It’s smart in a different way.”

“I knew it!” she said. And that was the end of our lesson.

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