He’s nearly fifteen years old, I’ve known him all that time, he was in my belly in the beginning and now he’s in the front seat of my car. He is changing, again. His face is becoming longer, his eyebrows darker, he has a couple of blonde hairs on his chin, you can only see them in good sunlight. I find myself staring at him trying to determine what the difference is. The changes seem daily. His voice is teetering on the edge of adulthood. Deeper, it has a bit of a crackle and his laugh is louder. I should have recorded him talking when he was little, I should have taped the funny things he said instead of merely writing them down. Still, I don’t go about my day with a tape recorder in my back pocket, say it again, honey, just a little clearer. I should tape him now, he’d hate that. I might do it tonight.
He’s not perfect, Big H, but he’s bloody brilliant.
This is me picking up him after school:
‘Hi Honey, how was your day?’
‘What did you do?’
Cue flashback to 1984, this could be and my mum. You’ve gotta smile.
‘Big, I got an email from one of your teachers today.’
If he has to ask that is not a good sign, but I leave it, I’m not here for a fight, the fight will be when we get home and his dad finds out.
‘PE,’ I say.
‘Oh yeah,’ Big H shrugs. An email from your teacher is a given. Like pimples and having to feed the cats.
It’s hard to know what to do when the reaction is almost nil. I remember shrugging, like most teenagers, I was good at shrugging. I drive and look at him sidelong. He’s either pretending he doesn’t care, saving face and inside he’s spewing, or he doesn’t care. I turn the corner to pick up his brothers and I know the truth. He doesn’t care.
What do you do with somebody who seems to have no aspirations? Big H looks like a teenage nihilist and I’m trying to keep my whatever-will-he-amount-to stylings to myself. I shut up and worry on the inside.
Anyhow, it’s not all lost.
He has his cello. He’s interested in cello, he has aspirations, they’re not the Capital C concert hall dreams of his forward-planning mother, they are aspirations to get his music right one piece at a time.
Last week I lay on his bed and listened to him practice. He played the stuff he has to for Music then he played the stuff he’s been learning because he wants to. He gets sheet music off the net and studies it, he hears a piece and tries to figure out how it goes just by tooling about and giving it time. He’s dogged. He started over and over and over, and here I was thinking the kid had no enthusiasm.
He played a Bach piece, the Prelude from the Cello Suite 1. I didn’t know he could play that. I hear that music often, it turns up in films and on TV shows, the radio, I love it, if I’m driving I always play it loud. I lay on his bed, it’s a bunk bed so I was up high and he couldn’t see me, I listen to him play and cried. Yes, I’m sooky. I’ve had a sooky year and all kinds of anything make me cry: the road toll, kids losing their parents, parents losing their kids, terrorists. But beautiful things make me cry more. My son played Bach, he stopped and started, but it was there and it was beautiful. My kid was being beautiful.
Maths. Who needed it?
Homework. It could wait.
My big son- the one I prepared earlier – is morphing.
I leant over the bed, looked down and watched him at work. He was sitting straight and he held the bow like he was shown. It used to hurt, felt unnatural and made his hand ache, but he pushed through the pain. He played with confidence. He made mistakes with confidence. If he never played a concert hall it wouldn’t matter. He loves it. His cello sounds like thoughtfulness and Autumn, it sounds solemn and it sounds free. I loved Big H’s concentration, his mouth slightly open, an almost-smile but not, because this was serious.
My son is changing and it is beautiful.
Don’t tell him I took this. Beautiful.