The Roles We Play
I was reading an article in the local newspaper about a sophomore who was accepted into an advanced orchestra program when my mind flooded with memories from my adolescence.
From age 8 through 18, I was a musician. There was a brief stint as a “cellist,” but at the beginning of fifth grade, I picked up a shiny, gold alto saxophone at the school music fair, and I became a saxophonist. In elementary school, I practiced “Hot Cross Buns” with the same vigor as “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and that early diligence paid off.
My eighth-grade band teacher felt I needed a challenge, so he handed me a tenor saxophone before class one day. I clipped that matte butterscotch beauty onto my neck strap, stretched my fingers farther apart to find the pearlescent keypads, and I became a tenor sax player.
In high school, when I wasn’t marching to “Eye of the Tiger” down Diamond Avenue, I was projecting “Tubthumping” from the bleachers of Harman-Geist Stadium, perfecting “Lohengrin” with the concert band, or jamming out to “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with the jazz band.
What I wasn’t, was a solo artist. It was the ensemble that energized me – all sections of the orchestra creating something bigger than themselves. A symphony, a higher frequency.
My mother also was a musician during her adolescence – she was a horn player, double French horn in orchestra and mellophone in marching band. I knew this, not because I heard her play, but because I saw her old band jacket hanging in my Nana’s backroom closet when I was little, and I asked a lot of questions. Nana always smiled and spoke proudly of my Mom’s days as a musician.
When I was a musician, I thought often about my Mom’s double French horn unplayed in its case in an upstairs bedroom closet. It made me sad that something I decided she loved as much as I did wasn’t part of her life anymore.
One day I asked her why she didn’t play anymore, to which she simply replied, “I’m a wife. I’m a Mom. Life changes.” That response did not satisfy my 15-year-old self, because I continued to quietly mourn the loss of her former identity.
Now I have a 12-year-old who is an aspiring drummer. She’s never heard me play my tenor saxophone; it remains in its case untouched for over a decade in the upstairs spare bedroom. If she asked me today why I stopped playing, I’d probably say, “I’m a writer. I’m a wife. I’m a Mom. Life changes. And that’s ok.”