I sat alone in the middle of the university’s recital hall and listened to the dissonant sounds of the musicians tuning up for their performance. People in the audience were chattering excitedly, their voices swarming and swirling around me in another tuneless wave of sound, all of it resonating within me and awakening memories of my own university years, and the starlight that fueled my dreams back when life was so new.
There were no empty seats: the orchestra had a superb reputation and, at $15 a pop, tickets were highly affordable. My son was up on that stage. I couldn’t wait for the lights to go down, the voices to hush, and the music to dance out into my waiting heart. I had spent two hours in the car that evening, after an exceptionally busy week, and I likely wouldn’t be home much before midnight. I was exhausted and a little bit rattled.
But this was a moment in parenting that represented The Reward. For the hundreds of hours dedicated to driving this boy to bassoon lessons and band practice. For the thousands of dollars spent on instrument rentals, music lessons, band trips and stage clothes. For the breaches of worry a single parent falls into as they wonder if they’re missing something, avoiding something, forgetting something or doing the right thing, as they push, prod, and pull their kids to an adulthood that will serve them… and the world. For the monumental energy it takes to stand resolutely against the powerful wave of social norms and influences that could take one’s children terribly off track and land them in a life of misery and poverty. This parenting business is serious stuff, and there is no guarantee of success, whatever success even looks like in this day and age. Single parenting – in my case widowed parenting – sometimes feels like a relentless crapshoot.
When the music finally started, I closed my eyes and let the lyrical beauty and drama of Beethoven’s Second Symphony carry me away. I gave myself up to listening with every fibre of my being, and I basked in the glory of enormous gratitude. The rich, mellow strains of the bassoon were woven intricately into the music and I had the luxury of experiencing the delight and relief of a job well done. Beautiful music is an astonishing surprise. Music well played is a masterful gift. I was in heaven! At the end of the piece the conductor invited my son to stand and take a bow. I thought I was going to burst with pride!
I have no idea what my young man will end up doing with his life, or where the wandering road that leads to the mythical land called The Future will take him. But he’s off to an awfully good start. I drove home that night after the concert, the applause still echoing in my ears, and said a prayer of thanks to my Higher Powers for bringing us here, to this place where there’s a tank full of gas and an open road ahead. It’s been a long haul. Let the next journey begin!