As I practice my mind begins to wander and to wonder. Why am I practicing? Why am I not focussed? The year since my mother’s passing is almost upon me and I struggle to remember the details of her face, her Italian accent, her soft gnarled hands. I recall her frustrations with aging and arthritis and her inability to play piano like she used to.
I go back in my memory to the times when I was forced to practice. There was always the daily reminder of this task and how I hated it but always did as I was told. I never felt like I was mastering this crazy instrument. There was always something to improve, something to work on. How I wanted to be perfect from the beginning or within a reasonable time. Of course, these goals never were attained. Even when audiences clapped and I bowed, I felt it could have been better. Why was this so hard?
I hit high school like a wrecking ball taking down a building. There was so much work and violin fell into the background. I tried to keep it up but it was so uncool. People taunted and teased me about classical music and that strange instrument. Weakened and confused, I fell to peer pressure and stopped playing for many years. I felt so free. My mother was not pressuring me and I did not have to spend time practicing at something I knew I would never be sufficiently good at. After all, I was not going to be a professional violinist, was I?
Suddenly in my 20s I woke up one morning with a stark realization that something was missing. I was not sure what it was but somehow, I gravitated towards my violin case. I opened the aging dilapidated case and saw a thing of beauty. I could not remember seeing the exquisiteness in that instrument. I picked it up along with the bow and ran the smooth horsehair over the strings. It was extremely out of tune. Like I had never put it down, I tuned it up and generated a few tunes that I had slavishly memorized over the years. It felt so good. That warm vibration from the strings that I could feel under my fingers of my left hand moved right down to my toes. My heart was dancing. I was really happy. I don’t remember feeling this way ever.
I immediately went in search of my music books to find more pieces to play and soon enough several hours had passed. When had I had so much fun? My mother came down with such a look of surprise and pleasure on her face. I treasure that moment.
From that time on, I began part 2 of my violin journey. Since I was an adult, I could impose my own rules for practice and lessons. It felt right and I was joyous.
So now, as I pause in my practicing and think of my mother and her love of music, I have to thank her for the gift she gave me. I am the recipient of years of lessons and structure. I gained skills and experience that, without my mother, I would not have today. So Mom, from up there in the sky, I feel your smiles shining on me when I play and teach the violin. Thank you for the gift of music. I miss you.