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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Sometimes You Get a Ticket Home
June 27, 2010 - 7:14pm

Last week, I whined about the difficulty of having a child home for summer break. This week, I learned that hanging out with one’s kid, rather than doing assigned work, can be not only fun, but productive.

As mentioned here before, I take a singing class which is a highlight of my week. Last week we had the final class of the semester, a performance to which we invited friends and family. Through a series of flukes, two classmates and I are slated to perform at a club in September, and we’re nervous about it, so most of our focus for the past few weeks has been on perfecting our number. In all the fuss, I almost lost track of another song I was to perform, on which Ben came in and accompanied me on the guitar.

“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” went all right — the adrenaline was pumping hard enough to throw us a little out of kilter, but we’ve come a long way with it, and the audience was kind. I didn’t even think about “Kathy’s Song,” which I sang with Ben, until we’d gotten through “Boogie Woogie.” Then we just got up and did it. I’ve been singing with Ben since he learned to talk, and singing to his guitar since he got his first one, at four. It feels like breathing. When we were done, a number of audience members were in tears, and I don’t think it was just because of missed notes — as people said afterwards, the love was palpable.

Clara, the really nice and interesting woman who cleans our apartment once a week, is the matriarch of an impressive musical family. She directs her large church choir, and her son and daughter-in-law are professional classical musicians. Her grandson, who is sixteen, is also a budding performer. I don’t usually sing in front of Clara because, frankly, I’m intimidated. And generally, we just pass each other briefly in the morning, to exchange family news and practical information (“They were out of Mr. Clean, so I got the store brand — it’s under the sink”).

This week, though, I didn’t have the discipline of nagging Ben out the door, so I was slower and even more disorganized than usual. Clara came in while I was still getting dressed. As I was looking for my shoes, Ben started strumming Band of Heathens’s “Jackson Station,” a song I find irresistible, and before I knew it we were lost in the song.

When we finished, Clara was quiet for a minute. Then she said, “Do you have other songs like that?” Of course we do. “I think we should make a concert,” she said. “Mothers and sons — my daughter-in-law and grandson, and you two. Half classical and half country/folk. What do you think?” She knows how to get these things done.

We think it’s a fine idea. We’re polishing our repertoire — just as we’ve always done, only now it’s not goofing off, it’s important work. Who knew?


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