Sunday, September 8, 2013

I heard my daughter sing tonight; and learned a heart-wrenching lesson in the process

My daughter, who is in her early 30s, will sing with the church choir during Sunday morning service tomorrow. For the first time. Ever.

“Mom, do you have a few minutes to help me with something this evening; for about a half-hour or so?” There was something shy and vulnerable in the way she asked; a tone that immediately held my attention. “I need to practice my song parts… and, I want you to help me, if you don't mind.”

I was so tickled when she decided to join the choir a few weeks ago. I had no idea she had an interest in singing. She’s always loved music, was first-chair cellist through junior and high school, and often went with me to recording sessions and gigs from the time she was a baby. But she’d never indicated any interest in singing. Naturally I was eager to oblige her request. But I was still struck by the shy and vulnerable tone.

"I have to do the warm-up exercises first,” she fumbled with a small digital voice recorder. “I recorded my singing lesson.” Singing lesson? “I had a singing lesson from Jim Werner; he’s also the choir director. Will you help me with the first note? Shouldn’t we stand up?” I hesitated, my lazy singing attitude in conflict with the serious focused singing of my younger days. I stood up as she pushed the play button on her voice recorder. She and Jim Werner were running scales. She pushed the stop button.

“You got the note?” She asked, quietly. I repeated the scale as I’d heard on the recording. She started to join me, then stopped, and sat back down. “I’m nervous.”

“About tomorrow?” I asked. “No; I’m nervous singing in front of you,” she said, then looked down at her bare feet. I never expected that.

“Why? Why me?” I listened as she shared; and learned so much about my daughter in those minutes. "When I was four or five years old I remember you told someone that I didn’t have good pitch,” she said, “so, I didn’t sing, but I always wanted to.”

My heart sank. Her name is Melody. Had I so influenced her decision to keep her music inside herself? When she was four, I was ...
a young stressed out, overly technical singer with a bit of a prima dona attitude who suffered from extreme stage fright. Only years later did I learn to relax and channel rather than try to control the music flowing through me.

We had a wonderful chat about it all. She stood up again. “Do you remember the note?”

We sang scales, together, my voice tired and raspy; hers clear and loud – and on pitch. I could barely hold back the tears. She handed the little recorder to me and picked up the sheet music. While I played the recording (of her last choir practice), she sang along with the soprano parts.

“They have you singing soprano?” I asked, remembering the days long before my voiced aged into alto. She nodded. I started the recording from the beginning again and watched as I listened to her voice.

I heard my daughter sing tonight. I felt the music flowing through her. Moments of pure honest pitch, of clarity peppered ever so sparingly throughout her song, dominated by apprehension; like an eager child peeking cautiously around an otherwise blind corner.

I heard my daughter sing tonight; and through her song, her heart, her love, she owns her authenticity. What a road she has struggled through these past years; yet it was there all along. That a child of four would not only remember but be so impacted by what I thought was a harmless and unmemorable comment is awful, just awful. I had no idea.

“What time do you sing tomorrow morning?” I asked.

Her eyes widened. “I think 10 or 10:30; I’m not sure,” she shuffled some papers in her music folder.

“I would love to go and hear you, if that’s okay.” I’m anything but a go-to-church person, and she knows that, so my request came as quite a surprise – to her and me.

"Really? That would mean so much to me if you were there!” She sat back down on the sofa beside me, clutching her music folder. I wanted to cry. How is it possible that I missed all this for so many years? Since she was four years old.

“Yes, really,” I smiled. “Want to run through it one more time?” She nodded and I played the recording again. She was standing taller, her voice clear and beautiful to my ears, my heart, my soul.

I heard my daughter sing tonight. Beautiful and free.

I learned a painful liberating lesson tonight: Think carefully about what is said to a child -- or anyone for that matter -- because the words could have more power than we can imagine at the time.

I heard my daughter sing tonight; her voice so real, so strong. And I saw her again for the first time... an amazing woman.

My heart is so full of love and pain and love... and humility and pride and humility... I so love my dear Melody... and we are never too old to heal, to grow, to love...

1 comment:

  1. Krystyn,
    Your piece struck a chord with me, and it's being replayed out here in Minnesota.