The free Music at Noon concerts every Wednesday has provided a pivot for my weekly social calendar. This week featured a jazz program with a violin, guitar, bass and piano. Noah, the piano man was making his debut – just ten years old and the son of the female violin player.
I watched his mother as he was playing and I could see her pride in his performance and perhaps also a little anxiety, hoping he wouldn’t be too nervous or make any egregious mistakes. It made me think of all the parents who watch their children perform – whether in music or sports or academic pursuits – and how they feel proud and sad at the same time.
The young piano player’s performance also brought to mind how he was following in his mother’s footsteps for she was a professional musician herself. Years ago most children would take up the occupation of their parents – boys would learn to farm or woodwork or bend steel at their fathers’ sides; mothers would teach their daughters how to cook and sew and can peaches.
Knowledge was passed down to the younger generations, traditions were maintained. But today the world changes so rapidly that knowledge is obsolete within a few years – or a few months – let alone generations. Now the parents are taught by the children. The world my children and grandchildren live in is very different from the one I knew.
As a child our telephone was a heavy, black boxy thing with a three foot cord anchored into the dining room wall. In fact, there was a piece of furniture call ‘the telephone table’ that was specifically designed for sitting and talking. The popular luxuries for the home were ‘picture’ windows and wall to wall carpeting.
There was one television and it was the size of a small refrigerator. We got six channels when the wind was blowing from the right direction. While we watched Father Knows Best and Gunsmoke we ate a new type of food called TV dinners on TV trays.
There was no such thing as tacos or sushi or pizza. At lunch we ate Sloppy Joe sandwiches with potato chips and drank cream soda in glass bottles. Instead of frozen yogurt we ate banana popsicles and chewed Bazooka bubble gum. Snickers candy bars cost a nickel and a loaf of Wonder Bread twenty cents.
It wasn’t a better time, it was a different time. Maybe that’s the way it always is. Parents can’t teach their children about the world they will be living in, they can only teach their children about the world that they knew. So it is not knowledge that a parent passes down but the ability to be independent. When the time comes a parent must be willing to let them go; if necessary, to push them out of the nest.
Letting go is not an easy thing to do because you are losing a part of yourself – maybe the best part. I remember when my older son Rob moved to his first apartment. Every morning for nearly 20 years I had heard him run the shower and get ready for school or work. That last morning he lived at home I remember thinking, “This is the last time I’ll hear the shower in the morning,” and it was.
A few years later my younger son Jason also moved out. He was a night owl and had always come home late in the evenings. I would leave the porch light on for him. The last night he slept at home I thought, “This is the last night I will turn on the porch light,” and it was. It was the end of an era. The little birds knew how to fly and my nest was empty.
So the other afternoon as I watched young Noah play the piano I thought of his mother and how this debut marked one of his first steps out into the big world. I sent her the thought, “The years that lie ahead will go faster and faster. When you later look back there will be so much more you wished you had said or done or shared. Savor these moments for they only come once.”