Sarah has, for a long time now, referred to me as, “My crazy aunt,” or “My Heathen Aunt,” when speaking to her friends. It has never bothered me (unless she uses that disdainful teenager tone indicating that “I’m SOO bored – NO ONE is around!” and so on while I’m standing right next to her or I’m within earshot – and as I’ve said it’s pretty impossible NOT to be in earshot of Sarah if she’s within a square mile or so – I may be a crazy heathen but I am certainly SOMEONE!). Besides, I have always maintained deep and abiding respect for certain varieties and intensities of craziness. Just recently, however, I have grasped numerous reasons that her method of addressing me must change.

It was herding the “monkey cats” these past few weeks that triggered my epiphany. I am assisting Sarah and some of her friends as they prepare for an ensemble singing competition; I’m providing vocal coaching and accompaniment for a quintet of adolescent young ladies (it was a quartet, but the mysterious “Buyo,” who I referred to as “BoBo” – for which I was endlessly mocked even though I’m far too old and tired to remember nicknames for people I’ve yet to meet, especially when they are based on Japanese anime – whose real name is Karen (?) had recovered from her illness as of today). To compete with Sarah’s…intensity (?) as a person, you do have to be spirited, to say the least. And, OH, these are spirited young ladies. I have directed Shakespeare for junior-high aged kids, I have lectured about Shakespeare’s life to several thousand ninth graders on more than one occasion, I have taught myriad private and group voice lessons, I have coached large groups of juvenile dancers in vocal technique, I have conducted all sorts of children’s music workshops and classes, I’ve coached and judged drama competitions for high school kids, I’ve taken both my Kitten Children to the Vet AT THE SAME TIME, and NEVER, I must repeat, NEVER EVER EVER have I seen so much raw energy contained in so few small bodies. Don’t get me wrong; these girls are clever, talented and lovely, but they are WHOLLY CRAZY. And even though it is the variety of craziness for which I have high esteem, it’s just that they have it so INTENSELY and SIMULTANEOUSLY THAT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE ENOUGH CAPITAL LETTERS TO EXPLAIN THIS PHENOMENON.

Case in point, after last week at a rehearsal at the high school I had to revise my original idiom with which I’d described the experience of working with this group. I HAD been saying it was like “herding cats.” But these young women have reached such extreme vigor in their unpredictability and in the randomness of their…”oomph” – you get one of them slightly chilled out and two others are climbing the walls – I have decided it’s like herding “monkey cats.” And don’t you TELL me they don’t exist; they are competing next week with Denes Agay’s arrangement of Old Irish Blessing at the high school solo and choir ensemble contest (FYI – if anyone has a genuine published copy of the SSA version of this piece, please let me know – it is now out of print – a story unto itself). I’m beginning to think that Play that Funky Music, White Boy may have been more apropos – and I speak from EXPERIENCE (we rehearsed at the house a few weeks ago and the “monkey cats” found the karaoke machine – they thought that song and Y.M.C.A. were good warm-ups).

Ironically, I believe they will sound lovely and relatively SEDATE when the time comes. In the meanwhile, though, I’ve had to instigate a few rules (and in these situations “rules,” per se, aren’t usually necessary). One is that they are not to touch each other. I physically stood them in their own little “spaces” at some point last week to try and encourage adherence to this policy. Somehow they still managed to violate everyone else’s personal “space” with lots of extraordinarily high-pitched squealing (just below that frequency only dogs can hear). I also became VERY adamant that it is strictly forbidden, yes, VERBOTEN, I kid you not, TO JIGGLE MY BODY FAT. I was sitting in one of those stupid plastic institutional chairs at the piano last week, with all the “monkey cats” behind me. I’d come to a tacit understanding (with myself, anyway) that I’d just ignore anything they did that was quiet and did not directly impinge on someone else’s “space” while they worked on their parts, and that they should actually practice their OWN parts when I demonstrated them. One of Sarah’s friends, who shall remain nameless (especially since haven’t any clever Japanese anime nicknames for her), who was helping hold the sheet music on the dilapidated piano in the band room, began to, rather absent-mindedly, poke my gluteus MAXIMUS with a pencil (those dumb chairs have that mysterious hole in the region of one’s coccyx). Suddenly, all of the “monkey cats” were seized by uncontrollable fits of laughter. Evidently, if you tap me with a pencil on my ample bum (RESISTING – TRYING TO ABSTAIN FROM USING CERTAIN TERMS – MUST RESIST – TRYING VAGUELY TO KEEP THIS BLOG EXPURGATED AND SOMEWHAT “FAMILY FRIENDLY” – SO MUST OH I MUST REFRAIN FROM SAYING THINGS SUCH AS “GINORMOUS ASS“). Oh, forget it – if you know me well at all you know that I was secretly thinking that whether or NOT I said it. Anyhoo, if you poke my plentiful posterior it evidently causes a delightfully jiggly chain reaction running up and down from my big ol’ butt to my huge noggin. I will endure and even participate in a great deal of humiliation for the sake of comedy, but that just crosses the line. I have a whole theory about how you live to regret the things you blithely mock when you are young and you will be CURSED by the object of your mockery (but that’s a story for another time – though I should say I did share this concept with the “monkey cats”). Then again, I am not much help. I cannot always keep my big mouth shut when it might be ever-so prudent to do so. It is MY fault that the plastic trick-or-treating bucket (inextricably present in the band room in JANUARY) shall henceforth be referred to as the “wee wee pumpkin.”

But never mind that, I digress. (COME ON – I know lots and lots of actors – SOMEONE could at least feign amazement that I’ve somehow wandered off topic…) What I really wanted to address was my anonymity. It occurred to me that as Sarah’s “crazy aunt” or “Heathen Aunt” I am provided with no other name whatsoever. Sarah’s boyfriend (of at least five months or so, I believe) did not know my real name until last week. Half of the “monkey cats” do not know my name, either, and if they do they only heard it accidentally. So today, I put my foot down. “Sarah,” said I, “Call me ‘crazy aunt Kate’ or ‘Heathen Aunt Kate!!!'” She found this amusing and countered that she should call me “Aunt Cake,” but I think that I should only accept that from relatives four-years-old or younger. I repeated my plea a number of times; we’ll see if it sinks in. I guess some might find it odd that I wasn’t lobbying for more “respect” by having her drop the “crazy” or “Heathen Aunt” and just call me “Kate,” but to me that’s not the crux of the issue. I just want the generalized terms to become specifically MINE.

This might have been a productive thing to do earlier, because, as it turns out, I am now listed in the competition paperwork as “Denes Agay,” which some of the “monkey cats” think I pronounce “Denise.” So help me, if anyone PURPOSELY jiggles my body fat any time soon, SOMEONE WILL PAY. (Yes, yes, I’m too sexy for my body fat… or something like that.) It’s just SAD. I’m jiggly and ANONYMOUS or I’m all blubbery and DENES AGAY (to be pronounced “Denise,” please).