TBT: Ride Sharing

In honor of Throwback Thursday…

My junior year of high school, I carpooled to school with a guy I had been friends with since early elementary school.  At some point, my future husband started riding with us.  In retrospect, this was a bit nonsensical since he had to drive past the high school to get to my house.  Then again, perhaps he didn’t have a parking space.  At any rate, at some point – I don’t remember when – the friend no longer rode with us.

My husband can be a bit obsessive about stuff sometimes and spending time with me was one of those things (still is).  He figured out pretty quickly that if I was ready to go when he got there, I got in the car and we went to school.  But… if I wasn’t ready yet, I’d invite him in and then he’d get to hang out with me while I finished getting ready.

He started arriving earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

This caused me a good deal of stress because I didn’t want him to see me before I had my makeup on.  So I started waking up earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

And since I was waking up earlier, that meant he could arrive earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

He wouldn’t come to the porch until he saw the lights were on.  So I started sneaking to the front door in the dark to see if he was there yet.  One day, he wasn’t there but there was a large dark form of a man crouched on the front porch.  How I stifled the scream before running back to my room, I have no idea.  And why I didn’t report it to my parents?  Also no idea.  I just remember it scared the living daylights out of me.

My husband later said it was the Avon man making my mom’s delivery.  Like I said, he wasn’t there yet but he saw the box.  And probably had been there early enough some other time to see the man.

Since I was in the band and we had early morning practices, I left my house long before anyone else got up.  (Side note: he was not in the band.  That’s how much he wanted to spend time with me – he got to school over an hour before he needed to.)  I never knew (or don’t recall) if my parents ever knew how much time my boyfriend was spending at the house in the morning.  Or that he was deliberately coming early to catch me before I was ready.  Or that him doing so made me at least a little bit uncomfortable.

I’m glad that it went the way it did though.  If they had known, they might have warned me that the behavior was odd.  And that I should cut him loose.  Yes, the behavior was odd.  But we’ve navigated his oddities for a long time now and I’m happy for it.

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Music to my Ears

Jane declared the love of her life to me today.

“I am totally in love with music! I mean, I’m just in love with music.”

“Are you in love with playing music or just listening to it on your iPod?”

“I love it all! I love listening to it. I love playing it. I love figuring out how to play different instruments that I’ve never played before.”

“You don’t like to sing.”

“I know, but I love instruments.”

Earlier in the evening, as chime choir practice wrapped up, she had sat down at the piano and begun picking out Good King Wenceslas. She’s never taken piano lessons. Well, unless you count the 2 or 3 basic lessons she had at the preschool one summer. She’s played the song on violin and viola, but never piano.

By the time the chimes director had turned off the lights in the room to encourage (force?!) her to leave, she had it figured out. And pounded it out in total darkness as I called from the hallway, “Jane! We need to go!”

In the car, waiting (forever!) in the Taco Bell drive-thru line, she concluded her gushing of musical love by categorizing the band instruments and their players.

“I’ve thought it might be neat to play the tuba,” she said. “Because, you know, I’m big and it’s big. It kinda fits. But…”

“But what?”

“Did you ever notice when you were in band that certain people seem to play certain instruments?”

“Like how the tubas tend to be the big chubby guys?” I asked.

“Yeah! And quiet. They are all quiet. And the trumpets are loud and obnoxious.”

“I often found them full of themselves.”

“That’s true. And the trombones are weird in a quiet kind of way. And the french horns are… well… You know, Mr. Thomas says the french horn is the hardest instrument to play.”

“I can believe that,” I said. “I always thought the french horns were kind of formal. Stuffy.”

“Yeah! That’s it! Formal.”

“And what about the flutes?” I asked, naming her instrument.

Without missing a beat, she said, “They are the girly ones.”

“You and Jason are girly?” This surprised me.

“I’m not but he sure is. He’s got a high-pitched voice and he’s always going on about stuff like the girls do.”

“Okaaaayyy… what about the clarinets?”

“They’re the normal ones. I mean, not *normal* normal – they are still in the band, you know, but they can kind of pass for normal. They are interesting, like their own person, you know?”

It was about then that I decided she was a remarkably perceptive judge of character. In case you were wondering which instrument I played.

“What about the saxophones?” I asked. She had earlier stated that the saxophone was her favorite instrument.

“They are loud and annoying but funny.”

“And the percussionists?”

“Nerdy band nerds.”

“Um. They are all nerdy band nerds, honey.”

“Well,” she said, “they are always doing this.” She began to bounce up and down like she was keeping the beat of a song and getting into the groove. I smiled.

She thinks of “the twins” anytime she sees bassoons or oboes because the bassoon and oboe in her band are played by twin brothers. I said I had found them to be “pinched”, although the person most prominent in my mind didn’t fit that bill.

I was curious, since she has played a stringed instrument for eight years, what she thought of strings players, even though they aren’t in the band. So I asked.

“Snobbish,” she said. “And different.”

“Snobbish? Really?”

“Well, especially violins. They think they are all that because they always have the melody.”

“And what about violas?”

“Well violas are awesome, of course!”

“And cellos?”

“They think they are the best because they’ve got the biggest instrument.”

So now you know Jane’s official band and orchestra classification system. If you were in one or the other, do you agree with her? How did you see the different sections?

When we enrolled her in the Suzuki Strings program in Kindergarten, we were hoping to inspire a love of music. We felt mastering an instrument was an important skill. There for awhile, as she chafed under the continuous years of lessons and itched to try new opportunities, I was concerned we had failed in that endeavor. I am so pleased to know now that we succeeded.

Hal and the Flute

I have hesitated on whether to share this story because it involves spanking, which is a rather hot-button issue in parenting circles. I’m not interested in joining that debate. I think that many of us are on the fence on whether or not spanking of any kind is ever an appropriate tool in our parenting arsenal. I personally tend to agree with the anti-spankers on the notion that there are usually better ways to administer discipline and consequences. That said, spanking was part of my childhood and that can be difficult to overcome. And sometimes I simply can’t find a way to make the severity of the situation understood by my strong-willed and stubborn children. So, please, if you are opposed to spanking, extend me a little grace, knowing that I struggle with the issue, and please try to see the smiling moment in this tale.

Jane recently acquired a flute and hopes to join the band next year. The day the flute arrived, I had a very serious conversation with Hal about it. I explained that the flute was not ours and was very delicate and expensive and he was not to ever, ever touch it. I used my best stern, I’m-not-kidding-around-this-is-serious mommy voice to make sure he understood.

The next day, I was away from the house for awhile and when I returned, I found the flute case open on the dining room table with the individual parts in disarray on top of it. I bellowed Hal’s name and he reluctantly came into the room.

“Did you mess with Jane’s flute?”

“Yes.” His voice was very small.

“Hal, this is very serious. We talked about this.” I took him firmly by the hand and led him back to his bedroom. On arrival, I squatted down in front of him and took both hands. I looked him in the eyes. “Do you understand that that is a very expensive piece of equipment? It is not a toy and it does not belong to us. You cannot play with it. You must understand that. We aren’t playing around. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. You are going to get a spanking for this because you had been told.”

As I finished speaking, his little face crumpled and his eyes welled with tears. I expected a protest about not wanting a spanking but that’s not what I got.

In a desperate,yet resigned voice, he cried, “But Daddy already gave me one!”

In that moment, my heart went out to the poor boy. He had let his curiosity get the better of him and had messed with something he knew he wasn’t supposed to. His father had found out and punished him. Then his mother found out and was about to punish him again. And in the same way. He was trying to bear the consequences as best he could but this was too much. I could see in his eyes that he understood the severity of the situation and was not likely to ever touch the flute again.

“Oh, honey!” I cried. “If Daddy already gave you one, I won’t give you another. I didn’t know.” I wrapped him in a hug and felt the relief in his body as he hugged me back. I then wondered why my husband had not put the flute away after he found it. My planned administration of discipline had been born from my belief that I was the first person to encounter the flute, given its found state. I was later to learn that he hadn’t known how to put it in the case so had left it for me to deal with.

I honestly don’t know if the spanking alone would have been enough to stop Hal’s handling of the flute. But the unintended tag-team of the spank and the almost-spank worked miracles.

A Terrible Dichotomy

Today possessed a terrible dichotomy for me. It started off well. Last night, Jane’s small 7-person string ensemble performed at the sixth grade Christmas concert. They were dwarfed by the choir and the large band, but they performed admirably.

When it was over, she announced that she really wanted to play in the band next year. This is enough to warm the heart of any parent who was herself a band nerd. But then she told me that while they were waiting for the concert to start, the cellist had asked her to hold her cello. While holding it, she played Witches Dance, a fun fast song that she plays well on her viola.

A man standing nearby told her that she was very good. “That’s not her instrument,” her instructor said. “She’s never played that before.” That anecdote sent my spirits soaring. I love tales of her musical accomplishments. I went to work this morning feeling as though my daughter was the most wonderful, most talented child on the planet.

Later in the day, I talked to her PE coach about some trouble she was having at intramural practice. I wanted an adult’s perspective on the situation. In the course of the conversation, she told me that she thought Jane was one of the better volleyball players. She was convinced that Jane could make the A team at the middle school next year. I was beginning to feel the effects of oxygen deprivation, I was flying so high.

And then, it all came crashing down. I work in a cave. This is figurative, of course, but sometimes it takes a bit for news from outside to make it to me. But finally it did this afternoon and I learned about the horrible shootings in Newtown, CT.

Like all people, I was stunned and left numb. I was angry and sad and desperate to deny it. And then, like all parents, I couldn’t help but put myself in those parents’ shoes and imagine the horror of it happening here. This process, which I have engaged in many times, was made even worse because I was so full of love and pride for one of my children at the moment I learned the news. I imagined all that potential and promise ripped away.

The world does not deserve to be denied what my daughter has to offer. The world did not deserve to be denied what those children had to offer. I spent the afternoon in a hollow and empty shell.

That shell filled with family life when I got home. We went to a Christmas party. Hal met Santa for the first time. Eventually, however, we found ourselves at a restaurant and the day’s events smacked us back in the face. We don’t have TV at home, but this restaurant did. And Jane’s side of the booth was facing it. My precious, innocent, promising, wonderful daughter came face to face with the reality of a deranged man. When she finally lost control, she sobbed, “How can someone kill their own mother?!” She cried about how the children would never learn to play the flute. When we got home, she cried because they probably had Christmas presents under the tree that they would never open. They’d never learn to drive a car. They’d never have kids.

I did my best to put the pieces back together. I reminded her that everyone has different experiences. Everyone has a different life span. Those children are at rest now and aren’t regretting the things they never got to do. Their families need her prayers though. I took Mr. Roger’s advice and reminded her of all the “helpers” she saw on TV. The police, ambulance workers, doctors, and nurses. The social workers and counselors and teachers. Friends and family and neighbors and strangers all pitching in to help. “It was one bad person, honey, but hundreds of good people there to help the people that need it. Hold onto that baby, and pray for them all.”

Now let me tuck you in so I can take my turn curled up in a ball crying on my bed. About the senselessness of it all. About the anguish of watching your idyllic childhood view of the world crumble a little bit more into every adult’s reality. I love you my sweet angel and I am so thankful you are still here.