I can still remember the occasion as if it was yesterday, although it is over 60 years ago now. It happened in our living room and Mom had gotten down to my 5 year old level so she wasn’t towering over me. Good school teacher techniques.
“Do you think you would like to learn to play the violin?” Neither of us had any idea at that time how those dozen words would shape the rest of my life.
The lessons started and I took to it straight away. I don’t remember feeling particularly talented but, looking back at the photos of a 7 year old me, I can see that things looked fairly natural right from the start. It all went along okay for years until I hit age 12. Again, I can remember my Mother’s words, etched in frozen time:
“Well, it is your choice. Either you do more practice or I am going to have to sell it.”
I had no real idea of the sacrifices she made back then to give all of us the gift of music lessons but they were many and I now know they cut deep. I just knew that I had no identity at that time without the violin. So, the practice improved.
It grew more interesting and more absorbing as I grew older and was always a great excuse to escape the rounds of household chores. I was a pretty insufferable oldest child and my poor siblings bore the brunt of my new willingness to practice. In truth, everyone in my family suffered because the needs of the violin grew more demanding as time went on.
Opportunities came my way and I went away to foreign lands to study with an astonishing teacher.
I can still see my Mother’s face at the airport when I left. She always put a brave face on things but that day it was slipping. Behind the encouraging smile there was a look of both pride and desperate sadness. She knew I was flying the nest and that it would be forever.
The Lebanese-born poet Khalil Gibran writes of this in his well-known book The Prophet:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you, for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness, for even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Mom let me go that day that I might find MY life. And I did.
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