Middle Aged Treehouse

I'm only mature in years.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Horn of plenty

Most of the time, I consider myself to be an excellent mother. But for those times when I'm consumed with guilt at my demanding nature and bad temper, I come here to blog and cool off. (Hmmm. This is the second time this week, and this blog's only a few days old!)

Jack has been practicing for several weeks for his trumpet solo in a UIL competition tomorrow. We've paid the fees, had him practice with the freelance piano accompanist, made a special trip to the music store for a new book, and marked the measures, as required, in faint pencil. We've even picked out his clothes.

When I say Jack has practiced, I use that term loosely. In fact, seventh grader Jack doesn't mind a LITTLE practice as long as it doesn't interfere with his regimen of watching television, playing PS2, or building with Legos. Which is fine. Jack enjoys the social aspects of middle school band but has made it pretty clear that he's not planning on becoming the next Chris Botti. Dave and I encourage him to practice, but exhange amused looks when he gets to the hard part of a song and decides he needs one more drink of water or that his toothbrush is suddenly calling him.

This week was expecially tough for my son. He seemed to dread playing his music much more than usual. I bought and learned the piano accompaniment to his song, offering to play with him for fun and practice, but that just seemed to add to his stress. As he got closer each day to playing for a judge, he became more tense and played even more poorly than the day before. I decided not to push him. But tonight I finally I had to tell him the time had come, he was simply going to have to work through the wobbly sounding middle section of the song.

From Jack's bedroom I heard this pattern no less than twenty times: Start/Squeak/Stop/Groan/Repeat. Finally, after a small spell of silence, I went into to check on him. What I saw made me physically sick and what I said to my son was pretty toxic as well.

The bell of Jack's beautiful Bach Stradivarious trumpet was crumpled, twisted and squashed into a hideous oval shape. I could not imagine how this had happened. Hot tears starting shooting out of Jack's eyes and two stalactites of snot dribbled over his fuzzy upper lip.

"It. Was. An. Accident," his voice cracked. "I. Just. DroppedItOnTheCarpet."

"ACCIDENT???" I shrieked, my jaw limp and hanging. "You just happened to pick twelve hours before UIL to have an accident?

I'm ashamed to say, I turned into Lee Ermey sometime during this part of the conversation.


For a minute, I didn't care that Jack was choking on his own sobs. I launched into a long speech about preparedness and maturity and commitment and carelessness, and I'm not competely sure what I said, except I'm certain my face was pink and distorted, and I do remember mentioning something about "getting off your ass" and "not watching marathons on Cartoon Network."

Then I felt so terrible for my stressed-out, sobbing little man-boy, I would have done anything to make him feel better. Once I was over my shock and horror at the disfigured trumpet, my speech took a turn along the lines of (1) It's only a thing; things aren't as important as people, (2) You are a great kid and a blessing and my greatest love, (3) I'm sure we can get it fixed somehow (gulp).

I sent Jack to the shower and told him to read until bedtime. We decided to get a fresh start in the morning and if his practicing didn't sound performance-ready, we would bow out of UIL this year. He seemed relieved at having options but said in a small voice that he wanted to try to make the competition. He stopped sniffling when I showed him seemingly miraculous before-and-after internet photos of repairs made to a mangled trumpet.

According to the trumpet repair websites I Googled, restoring the trumpet and renting a temporary new one is going to set us back about 400 bucks. About ten months of Jack's allowance, if we go that route. With some luck, we can get it looking normal again. But I think Jack will remember the night his mom turned into The Great Santini for a long time.

— Postscript to this story: On Saturday morning, Jack had the best practice session of his life and played beautifully for the judge, dents and all. I've got my happy guy back again.


Blogger TCU grad student said...

Whew! I'm so glad the story turned out well.

Well, actually I cheated and read the post-script first.

Ooooh I felt so bad for little Jack! But that he did well for the judge was awesome!

9:59 AM  
Blogger TCU grad student said...

Please take a picture of the trumpet. I'd love to survey the damage.

I don't think there's any bad guys in your story, by the way. That's just life.

I'm so glad for y'all that it turned out well!

10:08 AM  
Blogger TCU grad student said...


My blog is on the fritz. This is what I would've written:

If I ever have a cooking show -- which would be an odd thing since the only thing I can make well is Uncle Ben's rice -- the theme will be gourmet junk food.

I am in a rut of eating snacks and sweets that has only gained momentum in the aftermath of the holidays.

I have only my sweetooth, a lack of self-control and my new work associate Tee Bird to blame (she's an enabler).

Granted, I'm no -- how do I say this with the proper sensitivity? Who cares! -- lard ass. I am a slightly untrim 213 pounds.

The problem is, I had been so good for so long. I have the excruciatingly hurtful male equivalency of pregnancy to thank, one mamajamma of a kidney stone, to thank for a four-year period of fairly sensible eating habits.

After the kidney stone I suffered during my senior year in college, which followed a urinary tract infection as a sophomore (I started at North Texas as a sophomore instead of a freshman. Thank you AP Test!), I began to think I needed to eliminate certain unhealthy foods from my diet.

I stopped drinking brown sodas, almost completely cut out red meat and started guzzling bottles of water like I was growing gills.

Now, this didn't eliminate the 35 pounds of flab I amassed in college sitting on my ass reading Sartre and Shakespeare. But it made me feel healthy.

The illusion was an alluring one. However, I still got sick with some frequency, including a painful flare up in my prostate. Yes, I was a 24-year-old popping pills meant for men in nursing homes.

But the point is, I was a disciplined eater. I ate no brownies. I drank no Colas. I ordered the chicken sandwich at the various beef-inspired fast food chains and I felt as if I was doing the right thing eating-wise.

Occasionally, I broke down and woofed down a cheeseburger and fries (Some advice: Order the bacon cheeseburger at Braum's!). And whenever I visit my dad's house, he cooks hamburgers on the grill -- even on my brother's and my birthdays. But that is a different story.

But over the summer, poor and stressed by the combo meal of working late on deadline with a newspaper and going to grad school, I became a burger-scarfing machine.

Now, about those sweets. The lovely ladies at my new provide a fairly regular supply of goodies. Henri Etta, for example, our matriarch, bakes tremendous chocolate chip cookies. And Tee Bird, my work buddy and the Beavis to my Butthead, introduced me to pre-order pie. Check out her Middle-aged Treehouse blog for more on that.

And now I've pretty much given up on healthiness. Last night, I scarfed down cheese fries. Today I ate a Braum's Mix, which contained vanilla ice cream and Reese's Peanutbutter Cups. And as I wrote this, I consumed two frosted Pop Tarts -- or whatever their Kroger brand equivalent is called.

At this rate, I will never be in football-plyaing shape again! I was 199 pounds a year ago! The smallest d-lineman on the semi-pro team with whom I practiced ala Paper Lion. I have designs on playing again to finish the project I started.

But not with this diet. Jared Fogle where are you??

8:40 PM  
Blogger Barb said...

Hooray, Sis! I'm so glad Jack did well - and hope you got over the guilt! :-) You are an amazing writer - you've already got me laughing!!

11:18 PM  
Blogger Siobhan said...

Oh boy, I can relate to your "Joan Crawford" moment...I've had a few of my own over the years...

One thing I always do is apologize to the kid in question for my over-the-top reaction. They have been remarkably forgiving (so far anyway!)

2:26 PM  

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