If you’ve never seen a really decent production of the classic musical 1776!, do yourself a favor. Yes, the 1976 film that starred most of the original Broadway players isn’t half bad. That being said, it’s not half-good, either. Regardless, the show features a beautiful number wherein Martha Jefferson serenades Ben Franklin and John Adams with the story of how her husband, Tom, won her heart. “It’s really quite simple,” she said. “He plays the violin!” By the way, in the film, Martha was played by Blythe Danner and she almost did the role justice.
You may be asking why I have brought all of this up. It’s really quite simple. Tonight my five year-old little big man took his very first violin lesson. I met him after school. Oh, that’s right… If you didn’t know, he goes to school to learn while I go to school to teach. He actually revealed to me recently that he thought I was a student and that the high school where I work is a school for really big kids. His lessons actually take place at the very Montessori school where he studies during the day. My mother-in-law had driven him because I was afraid the Dallas traffic might make me late. But I arrive just in time. I grabbed his newly-rented violin in its case, took his hand, and walked across the parking lot toward the building. A young woman who turned out to be his violin instructor emerged from her car and met us to unlock the door. This was so cool! Flooding through my head were visions of my son and daughter delighting their mother and me in our twilight years, she at the piano, he standing with his fiddle playing soft chamber music while we sip our smart cocktails. God has richly blessed us. Now if I could only get him to start taking out the trash for me, I’d be set. I further began to imagine that my little guy would soon have one more arrow in his quiver of social gems with which to charm the world. “You mean you’re witty, brilliant, can mix a good drink, AND you play the violin?!” That’s my studly son. I thought of the joy he would bring to the dying as he played sweet melodies for the patients in hospice. In fact, his bow would sound so dilcid, many of them would revive on the spot. I thought of all this in a five foot walk to the door.
Then we went inside and spent thirty-one minutes learning something called “rest position” and “play position” and learning the proper way to hold the bow.
Oh my little man was a serious, studious pupil while he listened to his teacher. I was quite proud of him at how much weight he gave every word she spoke. “And what’s this part of the bow called?” she asked. “Um, the frog,” replied my boy. “Good!” Yes, there’s really a part of the bow called the frog. “And you know where your middle two fingers go?” she asked. “Yes,” replied my son. I began to imagine instead, not a life-saving superstar but a robotic sound machine who could readily demonstrate “bow holds”. Where was my chamber music?
When time was up, we left and headed to the parking lot. We crossed paths with one of his Montessori teachers (they call them guides) who complimented me on my bow tie. “Yep,” I said, “I figured if he was using a bow today then so should I.” “Really!” she said. “That’s so awesome!” “No,” I replied, “I just grabbed the first tie I could find this morning.”
As we drove home I asked my son how he had enjoyed his first lesson. “Um, Daddy… It was fun. But it was kind of boring.” I suddenly began to imagine that this kid, to spite me for the impending years of bow holds, would learn only enough to play Turkey in the Straw on repeat. He would think this would drive me mad but he doesn’t realize that Turkey in the Straw is one of my favorite songs. So there! I win! Wait, where was I? Oh, yes. I also remembered that “this is boring” and “it’s kind of tricky” were words he used a few months ago to describe the karate classes he had just started taking. The good thing about him is that he is willing to stick with something for my sake. I know that one month from now he will be happily on his way to a lifetime of musical genius. In his lifetime he will discover that his untapped skill will draw the ladies to him like a magnet and impress everyone he meets. And if he doesn’t like it? Well, he offered me this alternative on the drive after several minutes of silence. “Um, Daddy? Can I play the drums?”
We’ll see, son… We’ll see.