Saturday, November 07, 2009

Madeleina's Flute

For the last several years, Madeleina has been in the choir. She's got a wonderful voice, but I remember when she first came home after her initial tryout and was told she didn't make the choir. I encouraged her to try again next year.
She didn't wait that long. She got hold of her second or third grade teacher, the choir master, and pulled her aside in the hallway and made her listen a second time. This time the choir master called and said, "You're daughter has a beautiful voice. Not only that, she insisted I listen, against my will. But she's made the choir. Be proud, not only of her voice, but of her knowing when she's right and the grownup is wrong." Or something close to that.
Now in middle school, she could only pick band or choir. She picked band because she wants to learn more about the flute and playing instruments. "I can sing anytime, but I can only have a music teacher at school because we're too poor to afford one, dad. So I picked band."
She must be reading my blog to know we're poor, because I try not to let it show. Though she's bright and probably takes a clue from my two trucks, 15 and 11 years old, and my complaining about things like the price of paint. Sorry, Madeleina.
In any event, today there were mock tryouts for the regional band. That's the band that will represent all of Johnson County, I think, in some contest down the road. All you had to do to be in the mock tryouts, and next week's real tryouts, was sign up. But to sign up you had to have a certain amount of confidence. In her class alone, since "Band" is a subject, there are seven flutests--if that's the right word. And Madeleina was the only one of the seven--though she admits she's not the best--who signed up. Good for her.
Till last night.
I'd had her all week and then Chepa picked her up yesterday. But Madeleina called me at about 8 PM--a wonder I wasn't sleeping already--and tearfully told me she didn't think she could go to the tryouts because she sucked. "I can't play a note, Dad. I stink. I know what to do and I'm not nervous but I just suck. So I might skip the mock tryouts. That's okay, right?"
I thought a moment, and in that moment remembered my one and only swim meet. If you have not read the story, look for an entry called Swim Team 101 or some such. It was a genuine embarrassment, what with me not knowing how to swim, my trunks falling off when I jumped into the water, me faking choking and subsequently costing my high school swim team a spot in the city playoffs.
"You shouldn't skip this, Madeleina. This is just a mock playoff. You go in, do your best and whether you are the best flute player or not, who cares? You had the courage to sign up for it, now is the time to follow through, whether or not you are good enough to actually make the regionals."
"Okay dad. So it will be like your swimming meet where your suit came off and you were naked, right? That's what you think is good for me?" She paused. "Are you crazy? I'm a girl! I'm only 12 years old! I"m not supposed to be traumatized by failing so badly the whole school laughs at me all year. WHAT KIND OF DAD ARE YOU????"
"Well, I was just thinking that you should put your money where your mouth is."
"If I do that I'll get germs that will make me sick and then need a doctor and you can't afford one."
"Figuratively. You didn't have to sign up for this. But you did. For one moment you must have imagined that if everything worked, if your fingers were in the right place at the exact time your breath was moving down the barrel of that flute, you would sound fine. You imagined that even if everyone else was good, if it all went well, you would have a sweeter sound, a higher note, a richer tone, than all of them. So I'm thinking that you ought to go there and see if that happens. You know, it might. You also know you're not the best. But on any given day, any team can win. And you work hard enough and are good enough to be one of the people there. Just trust yourself."
"When you put it that way, dad, I'm thinking I should at least try."
"Good girl. I'll pick you up at ten to nine and get you to school on time. Cool?"
"Thanks, dad."
So this morning I picked her up, dropped her off and came home to paint some more. The painting is coming along wonderfully. Anybody wants to hire me I charge $450 a day and my day is as long as I say it is. I should have some cache for painting Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland back in the old days.
At noon I picked up Madeleina.
"So? How did it go?"
"I sucked dad. I couldn't do anything. I was horrible. And not just compared to the other kids. I was just plain horrible. I don't belong on all region, I belong in the chicken coop."
I paused. She wasn't crying but she was serious. "That bad?"
"Sorry you went?"
She paused. "Nope."
"Know why?"
"Cause next week is the real tryouts. And I suck. But the other kids did their best and if that's all they have and I have a good day, then I might just make it. So today was horrible and I hate you for convincing me to go, but next week I might freaking rule! AND IF I DON'T, WHO CARES? I'm going for regional! I have the guts! I have the guts!"
"Pretty wild, child."
"I am your freaking daughter! We are GORMANS! We don't care if we suck! We do it anyway!!!!!!!!"
I paused, then turned on the radio. No way I could top that.
Hours later, I'm still thinking, Good for you, my beautiful Madeleina. If you can keep that thought in your heart forever, you will always have the courage to face the failures. And you will also have the courage to accept the successes. I don't know who taught you that, but whomever it was, I'm glad they did. And I'm glad and proud that you had the courage today to play when you knew you were in over your head. That's the only way to find out what the best are doing.
Ain't life fantastic? Here I was, stuck in pointless painting but doing the best best best I can just to prove a point to God and man, and then my angel takes a leap of faith, lands on her head, and comes up seeing the positive while acknowledging her own failure. Wow. Now do you all know why I love my kids? It's because they were given to me to care for, but at the same time to give me the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Thanks, universe.


Morgan said...


Morgan said...


reminds me of something Madeleina said to me: " Do whatever you do to the fullest! I believe in you! :) "

That stuck with me, and I send it back to stick with you!