Moment: My 11-year-old son, sitting in my neighbor’s front yard on a colorful, sun-dappled fall Sunday, his shoeless feet tucked beneath him in the soft green clover and his head supporting a most decidedly dapper black top hat and sporting a curled and fuzzy felt mustache—playing the trumpet, yes, trumpet—earnestly entertaining our neighbor while he raked and bagged piles of crunchy leaves, the sunlight mischievously arcing off the glossy brass instrument directly into the eyes of unsuspecting drivers.
Now this …. THIS … is a moment I never want to forget. May that picture forever be imprinted in my head; and may my son perpetually remain the kid who can get it into his head to dress up like the Monopoly guy and serenade a hard working neighbor while innocently causing fender-benders, waking napping infants, and soliciting surprised and happy smiles from all the Sunday sidewalk strollers. Because that’s who he is. And this is his story.
My son, at the end of fifth grade, had been playing the trumpet in his music class for exactly one school year when he decided he wanted to be in the town-wide 7th and 8th grade band, even though it rarely included younger students. Unbeknownst to me, he sought out the band director, acquired his email address, and proceeded to schedule an audition at a neighboring school. That’s when he brought me in the loop, so I could drive him there.
Now, my husband and I are nothing if not supportive and encouraging parents. But although my son had been steadily improving at the trumpet, his skills were still pretty rudimentary. Heck, one of the buttons on his dinged and rented instrument had been stuck for the past three months and in my son’s words, “It’s OK, I don’t really use that note anyway.”
So the odds were just about nil my son would make the band, but in our house those odds are as good as any. My son had shown great initiative in setting up the audition and was very hopeful and eager. I wasn’t about to squelch that awesomeness with a lecture on realistic expectations. I figured there’s way too much of that stuff careening around the bend of his pre-teen life, so in this case I was going to ignore it like he ignored that stuck key. Besides, we’ve long since learned that when this particular child really wants something, he has the God-given ability to Make. It. Happen. We have an oft-used saying … “So goes our son, so goes the world.” That’s who he is.
We decided, in a show of solidarity, we’d take him to his audition together as a family and celebrate his efforts afterwards at with some chicken matzo ball soup and French toast with strawberries. In the meantime, my son labored over the required piece of music (Theme from Harry Potter) and diligently practiced his sight reading. I didn’t even know he could sight read.
When the day of the audition came, everything went wrong. Both sons were sick, we were running late, and a local fair had eaten up all the parking spots. My husband dropped my son and I off at the school, where we wandered lost for almost 20 minutes.
My son was tired, discouraged, discombobulated and on the verge of tears. Not a good way to do an audition. We finally found the music room hidden deep in a corner of the basement. We opened the heavy door to scores of older students with gorgeous, shiny instruments unfurling scales that magically fluttered up and down the walls in beautiful melodious ribbons. I looked at my son and his face was grim. This was going to hurt, I just knew it.
My son checked in with the director and went into an empty classroom to practice. He asked me to wait for him down the hall, way down the hall. He would come get me when it was over. I snuck a peak in his room and saw him just standing there, his music case unopened. I wanted to scoop him up and get him out of there.
When he finally came to get me, he didn’t talk much but told me the director would email him in two weeks if he made it. We silently left the school and walked to Zaftigs where the two of us shared a bowl of soup. I tried to make it upbeat, but he was sunk low and there was nothing to do but let him be down.
He didn’t mention the audition again and we didn’t bring it up. Three weeks went by when he informed us he didn’t make it. I told him how proud I was of him for going after it despite the challenges. He grinned and told me was going to audition again in January.
God, I love this kid.
A few hours later he called me from his father’s cell phone. They were at a Red Sox game.
“I didn’t make the band,” I thought I heard him yell over the boisterous crowd.
“I know,” I told him again. “But it’s so awesome you tried.”
“No, Mom, I MADE it!” he screamed above the growls of a crowd busily booing A-Rod. “I MADE it!”
What? Was my child having some kind of delusional breakdown brought on by the contentious rivalry of a Red Sox-Yankee game at Fenway Park?
No. It turns out he had merely assumed he wasn’t chosen because he hadn’t been contacted. He had, in actuality, been emailing the heck out of that poor band director and the texted verdict had finally come through. My son was an official, card-carrying member of the town’s 7th and 8th grade band.
My eyes welled up.
And THAT is what makes that frozen moment—so many months later on my neighbor’s front lawn—so special. Well, that and the hat. I watched my son contentedly playing the trumpet—a bright and shiny new one we bought for him—center stage for the world to see, relaxed with a confidence brighter than the mid-day sun. It was magical. And that’s who he is.