I’m not sure how I’ve come to share my house with a group of musicians, but such has been the case for the last few years.
Between both kids and my wife, no less than seven instruments can be heard playing within our walls on a nightly basis. For hours, I’ll add. Which is nice, don’t get me wrong, if there’s anything the world needs more of it’s music, but when you have a piano and flute and guitar playing three different songs in your ear at the same time, it can get hard to read your book. Or think. Or keep from going crazy.
The dog and I spend a lot of time outside in the evenings. It’s quieter out there.
Not that they’re bad, mind you. My family is gifted in ways I never was with the songs they play and the manner by which they play them. The kids especially. Though in all honesty, I’ve had my doubts.
Take the past week. Both kids have been hard at work practicing for a special district symphony performance—think an All-star game for band nerds. One plays flute, the other sax. Nights now they’ve sat in their respective bedrooms wailing away, and to be honest—to be very, very honest in a very loving way—I must admit this:
It sounds awful.
Now, sure, I have zero musical training beyond a fifth-grad stint with a plastic recorder. The only thing I can play well is the radio. But still. It’s bad. Off, somehow. They’re hitting the notes they’re supposed to, but there’s not doubt something is missing. Something vital.
Aside from you, the only living thing I’ve shared this with is our dog Lucy. She agreed and wanted to go outside.
But here’s the thing—my kids might sound awful and off, but they’re not.
I know this because I’ve been through the whole district thing before. Last year I sweated through the days leading up to their performance, thinking both of my kids would get up there with everyone else and hit one clunker of a note after another. Didn’t happen.
What did happen is they both played their notes to perfection in the same way they’d played them in their bedrooms, only now there were dozens of other instruments around them to fill in the gaps. My daughter played her flute, my son his sax, and where they left off other parts took over before my children swooped in again. The broken and jumbled sounds I’d heard them play at home weren’t broken and jumbled at all, those were merely the parts for them to play.
I’d forgotten they weren’t solo performers, they were part of a symphony.
I say all of this because it’s easy sometimes to take a look at my own life and see nothing but a jumbled and broken mess that sounds a little off. Maybe a glance at your own life would reveal the same. Days of the same old and nights spent so tired you can barely get one foot in front of another. Living for the weekend or the next day off. Watching the years tick by and wondering where they’ve all gone and what the point of it all is, and running beneath it all is a soft current of desperation because you just don’t know if it matters at all.
It’s easy for me to think that way when I catch myself believing I’m a solo. But what if I’m not? What if none of us are? What if we’re all playing our own parts in some greater orchestra instead, letting our instruments mingle with billions of others, leaping out and in such that we add to a melody so pure and beautiful the sound of it carries and carries on forever?