For the Love of God and Music

We go to church. A lot. I say that not to be pompous or self-righteous. I say it not to make you or the religious right assume I am one of them. I say it because it’s true and sets the stage for this post.

We even go to church for Maundy Thursday. This service, for some denominations, is when Christians remember the Last Supper and Jesus’s washing of his disciples feet. I’ve had some powerful experiences at Maundy Thursday services in the past.

Back when we were going to dance lessons at a nearby club on Thursday nights, we would joke come Holy Week that we couldn’t go dancing at the bar with our Baptist friends because we were going to church. That always made us laugh.

So, anyway. Hal got excited when I picked him up from school and said we were going to church. I clarified that we were going to a worship service, that he wouldn’t be watching movies and hanging out with Ms. Rita like he does on Wednesdays.

He dutifully sat with his worship notebook and drew contentedly for a few minutes, then began to fidget and try to sit on the floor. I told him to sit up. He asked for some gum. I said I didn’t have any. He fidgeted and sat on the floor. I told him to sit on the pew. Eventually he stage whispered, “Can I play a game on your phone?” I said no. His hands went to his eyes, head to the pew (still sitting on the floor), and his quiet sobs could be heard by anyone nearby.

He looked up at me and said plaintively, “But I want to do something fun!”

“We aren’t here to have fun,” I said, already starting to feel there was something wrong in my words. “We are here to… to worship God and take Communion and… and… be quiet.”

What are we doing? I thought to myself.

There were 31 people from two congregations there. And that included the choir and the two pastors. Maundy Thursday is not attended by many. In fact, with the exception of the almost-13 year old friend of Jane’s present, my boys were the only people under 35 present. Even Jane had gone to watch a college volleyball game with her team.

What are we doing? I asked myself as I watched my young son cry because he was at church. What kind of damage are we inflicting?

These thoughts persisted after we left the church – the service was a very brief 30 minutes. From there, we headed to a professional symphony orchestra performance. One that started about 30 minutes before the boys’ bed time. But enriching your children’s lives is important. Infecting them with a love of music and all that, right?

Hal squirmed the entire time. Daryl complained that he was tired and did not want to be there.

What are we doing? I thought to myself.

Taking your kids to church is the right thing to do, right? Taking them to cultural events like high-quality symphony performances is the right thing to do, right?

So why aren’t they reveling in the awesome job we are doing at child rearing? Why aren’t they jumping up and down with excitement? Why aren’t they thanking us and begging for more?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that some experiences are valuable even if they aren’t fun. That children might learn to appreciate experiences later. That we have to set the stage for patience and respect and proper behavior. That we have to widen their horizons beyond video games and tee ball.

I’m just wondering at what age some of these experiences should begin. And whether our kids are typical or not. We are a music family. We are a church family. But are we driving the love for either or both out of our children?

I’m honestly not sure.

Advertisements

Getting it Wrong While He Gets it Right

To say we had a busy weekend would be a tremendous understatement. I can’t remember the last time I arrived at work on Monday feeling this tired. My boss even asked me if I was ok.

The week leading into it was like the climb to the top of the roller coaster. Volleyball practice for the tournament on Saturday. Extra chimes practice for the concert on Sunday. Extra Destination Imagination practices as both of the older kids prepare for Regional competition next weekend. Extra Suzuki orchestra practice for the concert this week. Oh, and Friday was the Sweetheart Dance, which I had signed us up to chaperone back when life was marginally slower and family still lived in town.

The weekend itself was non-stop movement on the high-speed coaster, beginning with decorating for the dance Friday morning, a meeting at work, mom arriving that evening, and a late night, first at the dance and then helping my husband in the studio. Early rise on Saturday to head to the tournament an hour away, back home for bell choir practice and setup for the concert and dinner, a pleasant respite to celebrate National Margarita Day before finishing off Saturday with a DI performance. Sunday was filled with church and the concert/dinner with all the preparation crammed in between. I feel incredibly blessed to have had my mother and her boyfriend here to help out. The logistics were hopeless without them.

We knew the weekend would be full and we saw the week shaping up to be tight too. But we learned that there is always room for an emergency, whether you want it or not.

Late Thursday night, after I had gone to bed, my husband opened the fridge for a snack. Now, the freezer had been working overtime for about a week and we hadn’t been able to figure out why. That morning, his milk hadn’t seemed very cold but it didn’t trigger a clear thought as to why.

But that night, it became clear. The fridge was dead. He stayed up until 3 o’ clock in the morning, trying to diagnose and resurrect the refrigerator. No luck.

So Friday morning, I helped with the dance decorations (more on that in a later post) while he returned home with two tasks: continue repair attempts on the fridge and drag the old fridge back into the house. See, the dead fridge was actually new-to-us. The old one had been sitting on the front porch, right next to the front door, for months while we failed to get around to putting an ad in the paper.

That morning, we realized that we had forgotten to fix the fifty sandwiches we had committed to make for the dance so we made plans to each hit a different store: him to Wal-Mart for lunch meat, me to Braum’s for bread, and then meet at the church to assemble sandwiches and store in the church’s fridge.

I was miffed at him. I can’t remember why now. I think he was altering plans, probably because he didn’t remember what we had already settled on. I tried to call him at one point after we split for our set of rounds. I planned to pick up some breakfast while at Braum’s and wanted to know if he wanted something.

My first thought was to grab him a sausage biscuit. My second thought was that if he wanted something, he should have answered his phone. Not the most charitable thought, I know. Which finally gets me around to the point of this rambling post.

When he arrived at the church, he handed me a box of Junior Mints. “I thought they might help your day go better,” he said with a smile.

He then asked me if I had thought to get some breakfast at Braum’s. I confessed that I had for me but not him. I defended myself by saying that I had tried to call. But I felt terrible. The differences in our approach to a stressful day could not have been made more clear. Fortunately, he was in a charitable mood.

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.

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.