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.
"YOUR GRANDPARENTS PAID FOUR FIGURES FOR THIS MUSICAL INSTRUMENT AND THAT WAS ON EBAY! THIS IS LIKE A WRECKING A CAR! THIS IS LIKE DROPPING A BABY! IF THIS TRUMPET HAD REALLY MEANT SOMETHING TO YOU, YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE LET IT DROP!
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.