Meaningful Schmutz

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 18 February 2015 @ 3:04 pm

ash wednesday

28 February 1990

Music Theory II

As always, Dr. Arlin strode into the classroom precisely at 7:59am. Only on this particular day, she had a bit of schmutz on her forehead.

It is a darn good thing that I thought to silently count to five before saying anything. Because the poor sod who inquired was on the receiving end of quite the lecture.

In my defense and to the best of my recollection,I had never seen anyone observe Ash Wednesday prior to that brisk, snowy day in February. Given the observance includes ashes placed on one’s forehead by the priest or minister, I imagine I would have noticed it.

Ash Wednesday, for those of the Mosaic persuasion, is the start of the forty-six day period before Easter, commonly known as Lent. If childhood experience is to serve as the basis for my knowledge, then Lent would be the period when one gives up chocolate. Seriously. Every one of my Catholic friends gave up chocolate for Lent — every year. Leading me to the misguided conclusion that (a) Lent was a holiday about refraining from chocolate and (b) Lent doesn’t really work…and it’s better to just do the Ten Days of Repentance, culminating in Yom Kippur.

Dr. Arlin was, without question, the most demanding and most intimidating professor with whom I studied. I also learned more about music theory from her than from anyone else. I learned as well how to stand tall and walk through one’s day while observing a religious behaviour that was unknown to most.

I have thought of her every Ash Wednesday for the past twenty-five years and pray that her Lenten season is filled with meaning and purpose.

*an earlier version of this appeared on Frume Sarah’s World in 2011.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephen Einstein 18 February 2015 @ 3:10 pm at 3:10 pm

An important lesson…from more than half a-life ago!


2 eddie lavelle 18 February 2015 @ 7:26 pm at 7:26 pm

so what was the lecture?!


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