By Charles Fisch (Toronto, ON)

Saturday Afternoon at the Opera:

We rarely heard music at home during the day. My mother silently disappeared into her chores and shrieked at my younger sister and me when she wanted something. Then there was silence again. My sister and I tiptoed around, shushing each, other to avert the wrath of Mom.

When my father came home from working in a factory all-day - exhausted - we all knew not to bother him. He swallowed supper whole, then lay down to listen to his beloved classical recordings.

My frisky energy as a young boy came alive to the music-skipping, kicking, bending, twisting, leaping, twirling and frolicking around the house, and sometimes breaking furniture. Dad sent me to ballet school when I was seven, just to tire me out.

Mother was more difficult to barricade from my father's bubble of subjugated daydreams. Every Saturday, dad lay on the couch escaping into Dostoyevsky, held in his right hand; his left hand waved in the air, conducting Maria Callas. My mother felt especially domestic when my father listened to opera. At the precise moment that Prima Donna Callas hit high C, live at La Scala, mom arrived with the vacuum cleaner - nyiaaaaaahhhhhhh - drowning out Maria's spectacular crescendo. Dad yelled at her with an imperial bellow that frightened the neighbours. She screamed back at him: "The children cried!" "The dog howled!" It was a breathtaking, three-ring, operatic circus.

Yelling was my parents' conversation style. Sometimes it was scary, but the yelling filled the house, and it felt more like home than the precarious silence.

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