Once upon last year ONE started piano lessons. She decided almost immediately that while she loved the teacher and loved the lessons, she didn’t care for practicing. In fact, she hated it. Therefore, she opted to quit. The End.
Unfortunately for her, she had a very good ear and picked it up quickly. Unfortunately for me, she wasn’t going down without a fight. And by fight, I mean verbal air raids. She didn’t like practicing new songs. She didn’t like being unable to play them perfectly the first time she sat down. She didn’t like messing up. She didn’t like me being close by. She didn’t like me being out of the room. I won’t get into detail on the sheer amount of headaches I’ve had over the last ten months, but part of me wanted to let her quit if for no other reason then to spare myself.
But watching and listening to her at the piano gave me a strange understanding that I couldn’t let her quit. There was more to it than that for her. Music was in her. She got it. It just didn’t mean anything to her yet, and I didn’t know how to inspire her. And then, like the very best kind inspiration, it found her.
One of my BFFs was in town on business and invited us to meet her in DC. The girls were ecstatic. They *love* her. When we arrived the girls found themselves looking at an enormous bus parked next to a somewhat dingy looking building in North West.
“THIS is where Heather works?” ONE gasped.
“Ewwwww,” said TWO.
“Not in the building,” I laughed. “Her work travels with her. On the bus.”
“She fixes buses? I thought she did hair.”
After a fierce squealing-and-hugging reunion, Heather took us inside the bus where she’d been living with Ingrid Michaelson and her band. Within minutes the girls abandoned even the notion of our family for bunks next to Heather’s. Then Bess Rogers, and bassist (also her husband!) Chris Kuffner, came aboard and ushered us into an empty 9:30 Club to show the girls where they’d be performing that night. ONE and Bess talked like old friends about instruments and being musicians. And when ONE confided that she wanted to live on a tour bus one day, Bess said, “Keep practicing the piano and one day you could live on a tour bus, too.” Word-for-word what I was thinking. But there were no rolling eyes in response to Bess. Only adoration. Fights about practicing dropped by at least 50%.
This week my BFF was back in town and invited us to watch Ingrid and her band at an all-ages show. ONE sat on my lap, mesmerized, for nearly an hour. From start to finish she barely moved. Barely said a word. Her eyes darting back and forth between Ingrid, Bess and Allie Moss. And when Ingrid sat down at her piano, ONE grabbed my arms tightly around her, and didn’t look away for even a moment. Her expression was intense. It’s a look she’s had since infancy. One I know well. And I knew as I watched her that her little life was changing.
Later that night Heather took the girls backstage to meet the band. At first ONE hid behind me. But as soon as Allie and Chris came out to greet us, my safety was no longer required. As I watched ONE present the bracelets she’d made and the pictures she’d drawn, I wondered if she was putting it all together. Ingrid. The show. Heather’s stories about tour. Singing “Rubber Duckie” with Allie when she was two. Watching Allie and Bess perform at an Apple Store when she was five. The tour bus.
What I loved most about the night, other than getting the chance to experience the music with my kids, was the way Ingrid, Allie, Bess, Chris, and Saul each sat down and spent time talking with my kids. Listening to them. Laughing with them. Asking them questions. Discussing their artwork.
They did for ONE in an hour what I could never do in a lifetime. They became the connection between her life and her instrument.
The next day when ONE sat down at the piano, we discussed where she was going to place her photos with Ingrid, Allie, and Bess. She wanted to be able to see them while she played. And when she started to practice, she went right for the song she was struggling with and played it again and again and again until she finally got it right. And then she kept playing, even though she didn’t have to.
All I had to do was sit silently by. And listen.
There are a lot of things I am for my kids that are mine alone. Parts of me that will forever be imprinted on their lives. But there are places I can’t touch. Corners of their hearts and minds reserved for influences outside of our family. And we are blessed that our lives are filled with such good people to fill those spots.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes, if you’re really lucky, it also takes a tour bus.
©2012 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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