Cell By Cell

Our home used to resound with music in the years 1994 to 2012. Some of the early notes were painful to the ears. I thought I’d die, cell by cell, from bombardment by bad notes.

There must be such a thing. There must be people who, sensing they have poor musical sense, go on learning music anyway. Cells must pop inside them—under an avalanche of bad phrasing—becoming goo.

I imagine a new diagnosis of sorts in medicine in which the doctor places a stethoscope on a man’s skin and says, in a mournful tone, “I’m afraid, Mister NoNotes, that you’ve contracted Immusicalia. You will die. Unless you stop singing or playing the trombone, of course.”

So you can see why, in the early years of parenting, I worried, I was suffocated with anxiety, in fact, that my children may not have inherited my musicality and that, instead, they might have acquired their father’s. But the girl and the boy became sensitive musicians with fine ears and nimble fingers. I was sad, however, when they decided that while the fine arts would never leave them, they would not pursue a professional life in arts performance.

This morning, I received a message from my son in Berlin. “Hey, I’ve rented a violin and I’m playing after such a long time. It’s so fun.”

I saw the message rather late today but ever since I read it, I’ve been feeling that my cells are holding hands inside of me. They’re putting their whole cells in and their whole cells out and their whole cells in and turning themselves around. They’re doing the hokey pokey and turning them cells around and that’s what it's all about.

~~~To see the reactions to this post on Facebook, go to http://bit.ly/MusCLFB

Mothering

 

I’ve been appalled that my son’s bank in the US has been unable to replace a deleted debit card. On a recent visit to Berlin, I discovered why nothing had happened even after my son’s complaints to the bank. He was being overly polite.

One evening, I heard my boy talk to the bank rep. He sounded as if he were at a confessional. I grabbed the phone from him, ambushing the gentleman at the other end of the line.

 “This here is the boy’s mother,” I said. “I’m sick of this runaround! Did you hear me? I’m sick of it.” I proceed to tell the man just how furious I was with the delay and ineptitude. I used bombastic words. I threw dates. I spat facts. It wasn’t enough that they would not deal with me in America because the son was not a minor anymore. Now that I was in Berlin with my son, I was still being given the runaround, I said.

Ten minutes later, I handed the phone back to my  boy, satisfied that I’d dragged the clerk through the coals. “And that’s how you deal with these people, baby,” I said. I felt proud.  I deserved the Distinguished Service Medal in Mothering.

 My son demurred. He said I had been unpleasant and rude to the clerk.

 I told him he needed to bone up, that he needed to stop sounding as if he were on his first date. I told him he needed to pretend he was being evicted or extradited or something nasty like that. “You need to learn to yell as if you are on your last euro.”   

“But the clerk is merely a cog in the wheel, Mom,” the boy said. “They have rules, you know. The bank guy told you exactly what he told me. You didn’t change the outcome.”

Days later, we were still at an impasse, even after my son mailed them a letter with the requisite information and a signature. Today, two weeks after my return from Berlin, I called the local bank. The accounts manager at the bank, Mike, told me to calm down, that nothing could be accomplished by yelling.

 An hour later I walked into the bank with a copy of my son’s letter. Mike was as calm in person as he had sounded on the phone. His eyes were sky-blue. He had a day’s stubble. He looked like a young philosophy grad who had arrived at his job as a last resort. “Let me check your son’s signature,” he said.

I wanted to tell Mike there was no need. No signature had more cachet than a mother’s testimony. Mothers were always right. We were privy to conversations about warts, fears, girls, dreams—and signatures. No bank or physician’s office could take that away from us just because our child was past 18 years of age. Yes, my son wasn’t a minor anymore. But my major was Mothering, first and foremost, and so I could also weigh in on the point of signature comparison.

I warned Mike. “If you check his current signature against what it was four years ago, I bet it will be quite different.” I told him that college transformed a young man’s outlook as well as his signature.

 Mike looked up and smiled. He asked about Berlin. After looking through the folder they had on file, he nodded.

“Yes, your son’s signature has changed since 2011 and I’m unable to verify it. But you know what? I’m going to help you out. This has gone on way too long. You’ll have a new card in the mail next week.”

I thanked him. As for all the spit and rant over the issue—which will end only when my son receives the card—I believe it was justified.

 My son needs to know this: A little shouting may not open doors but it certainly unlocks a window.

The Water Flows Down

“Mom, do NOT make dinner. I won’t be hungry when I arrive,” the son had said in a clear text to his mother at 8.30 PM. Despite the message and in spite of knowing that her son would arrive home only at 10.30 PM, she had a whole dinner ready for him by the time he walked into the house. He didn’t eat the dinner she made. She chafed at his attitude.

I doubt I’d have done any differently from the mother; I may have made fewer dishes, perhaps, but I’d have felt the same minor hurt. The point I want to make is that sons and daughters rarely try to understand why their parents go on overdrive when it comes to nurturing them even well into their twenties.

For as long as parents continue to make children, they will go overboard and be blessed in return with spondylitis, heartburn and anxiety (with mild depression) for having made their children’s lives as comfortable as they possibly could. They will run to the store at midnight to buy poster boards for a project due in the morning. They will drive all the way back home from the airport (and back again) to secure a forgotten laptop that the child left charging where it could never have been seen, even by Google Earth. They will stay up for their son or daughter even when they turn 25 because the roads are not well-lit and who knows what’s out there?

The Chinese have a saying that conveys this eloquently: “The water always flows down.” Parents will serve their children, who will fuss over their children who will, in turn, cluck over theirs. That is the way of the world.

All we ask, kids, is for you to sit back, relax and enjoy the love until you cannot lean back anymore. Fast forward: Your child is on the potty. It’s a big job, this childrearing. And it’s a bad, stinky world out there.