Ever had one of those days when you just really, really needed someone–one person–to tell you that you did something–one thing–right? I’ve had a lot of those days lately, and today was worse than most. I had a very stressful morning trying to do school with Jasper and figure some stuff out and rip a CD to my computer so I could give the original back to my autoharp teacher. I had grouchy kids and I felt like I was the biggest failure on the planet.
Then I had to leave for my autoharp lesson and I was running a few minutes late because of all that other stuff, and I really was embarrassed to even go because I did not really practice anything but the hymns I had to play for church. But I hadn’t had a lesson in a month and I didn’t want to start thinking I didn’t need help, because Lord knows I need it desperately. Besides, it is such a beautiful 90 minute drive up there.
I was still rather out of sorts when I arrived at my teacher’s house–especially since I had missed my turn and made myself even later than I already was. My teacher lives out in the country, literally at the end of the road. Her home is surrounded by a beautiful flower garden, and beyond that, orchards and hay meadows. The setting is idyllic.
It’s hard to stay grumpy in the middle of all that beauty, so I was beginning to relax even before I knocked on the door. My teacher is such a sweet lady and she has a wonderful way of putting me at ease. But still, I had to confess to her that I’d barely glanced at the assignments she gave me. She laughed it off and asked me to play a hymn that I’d played in church on Sunday.
So I played it, and she was very happy with my performance. It seems that my style of playing is actually considered “advanced” because I do my best to pick out the melody so that people can sing to it. Apparently a lot of autoharpists never progress beyond playing chords for accompaniment. But the point is that I really, really needed to hear that I am doing something right, and it was such a balm to my rumpled spirit to hear someone praise my musicality and technique, because I’ve been working very hard.
This is one reason why I love my lessons so much. My teacher is the only person in the known universe who respects me as a musician or even believes that I am one. Everyone else finds my new hobby either amusing or irrelevant. It was suggested to me that I should stop taking lessons because after all, I have already reached my goal of being able to accompany the singing in church. On the one hand, this is flattering, but on the other hand, the assumption behind the suggestion is that I should be satisfied with stumbling through a couple of hymns once a week for all eternity.
It’s true that I volunteered to play in church because I was desperate for there to be some instrument to accompany the congregational singing, but that was never, for one instant, my ultimate goal. As I’ve said before, I have wanted to play the autoharp for my entire life since the age of eight. I don’t want to be mediocre at it. My personal goal, from day one, has been to master the instrument and play it well, and that is still my intention.
What some people, such as my own offspring, don’t realize is that I have always loved music. I don’t blame them. I know that my kids look back over their short lives and can’t find any evidence that their mother has a single musical molecule in her body. They’ve never seen or heard me play the piano, for instance, although I did have several years of piano lessons (I’m too embarrassed to play in front of them). Apparently none of them remember the countless hours I spent singing to them as babies. What they don’t realize is that music is one of the things I gave up in order to reach other goals, such as getting a degree and raising a family.
My musical ability didn’t somehow fade or fly away or disappear. I made a choice to put it on the back burner in order to accomplish other things. There were times when my inability to get music out of my head and into the air was very painful. I could sing, of course, and I did, but I wanted so badly to be able to make music with something other than my voice. I just kept pushing that part of me back into some interior closet and slamming the door because I knew I didn’t have time to pursue it.
It’s always been rather amusing to me that my kids, all of whom have had to take some form of music lessons at my insistence, and most of whom consider themselves to be musicians, would also believe that their musicality just somehow fell from the sky and has nothing to do with genetics and certainly has nothing to do with me. My teacher has questioned me about my family’s music history, and every time I exceed her expectations she comments on how fortunate I am to have such a musical background–a background that is invisible to my kids!
So anyway, it was good to get that affirmation up there in the country, in that lovely place surrounded by more loveliness. I needed that little oasis.
As I was leaving my lesson I got a puzzling text from an unknown person. It said, “In my room; all went well; doped up!” I had no idea who it could be from. I didn’t recognize the number. (None of my phone contacts transferred to my new phone.) For some time, as I drove toward home, I thought about it and concluded that it must be a wrong number. Who on earth would send me a text like that, other than my son Flynn? I knew it couldn’t be Flynn because I’d recognize his number, and I’m pretty sure I’d know if he was in the hospital. After over half an hour of wracking my brains, a result emerged. I realized that today must be the day of my brother’s knee surgery. For some reason I thought it was later this week. Suddenly everything made sense!
I didn’t actually go home after my lesson because I had critique group followed by our monthly writers’ meeting. It was a good time but I was ready to come home when the meeting ended. I barely got my quota of fairy pockets made today!