Wednesday, December 28, 2011
"Arrrrrrrrr. Arrrrrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrrr." I watch my wooden spoon as it slowly stirs the bubbling Alfredo sauce and lose myself in the quiet sounds of your playing. Though the sounds drift from another room, my minds eye easily fills in the visual to accompany them and I see you, quietly practicing your 'r' sounds as you slide around on your knees building your train track. An emergency flares up in your game and you start to warn the other trains, "Oh no! Watch out! Dangeuh! Dangeuh! Dange...rrrrrr. Dangerrrr!" The sound of crashing trains takes over for a moment, and then all is silent. I stop listening and start paying closer attention to dinner; time to boil the noodles, warm up the green beans and set the table.
"Mom, listen!" you call, seconds later. "Cahrrrr-sn, Cahrrrrrr-sn. Am I doing it?!"
"You are!" I answer. "Great job, buddy!" The forced excitement in my voice fools you... inside, my heart is breaking a little.
I know it has to happen. Soft 'r' sounds aren't nearly so endearing on a 16 year old as they are on a 3 year old. But I happen to still find them heart-melting coming from you. *Sigh* No one told me how much it could hurt to watch your kid grow up perfectly...
You and I stood together in front of our church congregation on a Sunday morning two weeks ago. I listened to the hum of the congregation and silently nodded to our accompanist to begin playing. As the beautiful arrangement of Silent Night began, I grabbed your little hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze... out of the corner of my eye, I saw your face wrinkle in a smile and would later hear that that smile made a sweet impression to many of those watching.
I've been impressed with the sweetness in your singing voice since before you could talk - long before you could string words together, you would hum simple melodies with such clarity that it was easy to recognize the song in your head. Mostly it was 'Hot Cross Buns' (which McKenzie was learning to play on the piano... it was stuck in all of our heads!), but occasionally you would mix it up with a rendition of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' or 'I am a Child of God'. As your vocabulary grew, words started sprinkling throughout your melodies... now, rhythm has started to beat itself from your hands... snippets of made-up melodies play under your fingers from the keys of our piano... and it has become ever more clear that you have a talent - a gift - in music.
When I was asked to sing a few weeks ago, I gladly accepted, and knew I wanted you to sing with me. But when I approached you with the idea, you were sure you did not want to do it. "Nah," you said, shaking your head. "I don't weally want to."
"Please, buddy? I was thinking we could sing your very favorite song, Silent Night."
"Is there another song you'd like to sing? Anything you want..."
It was clear I was getting no closer, so I dropped it for the night. The next day, I decided to come at it from a different angle.
"What do you want?"
The bribing angle.
"What would you want me to get for you if you sing with me."
Your eyes narrowed, chin dropped, and I could see the wheels turning in your head. You had me begging, and knew you could get away with some pretty high demands. Finally you put out your decision; your voice was sneaky and serious, "Three packs of gum."
I smiled, "Done," I said.
Through the next week we practiced, singing it through once or twice a day between games of tag and house. We practiced through Skype to Grandma. And then again for Nana and Poppy. I watched through the computer monitor as you made Nana cry with your piercingly clear high notes... then she asked if you'd sing it again so she could record it on her phone. I needed just as much practicing as you did... singing my own verse after you had sung yours was almost impossible through the lump you kept bringing to my throat. And then, after we discovered that you could hold your melody line just fine if I jumped to sing alto alongside you, I couldn't stop laughing in amazement every time we'd diverge into different parts.
The big morning came and you looked so sharp in your navy blue, pinstripe suit. You and I wandered off just before the meeting started and found an empty room. Sneaking inside and closing the door behind us, I let you in on my little secret: before every performance, I always find a quiet place to sink to my knees and thank Heavenly Father for my singing voice. I asked if you wanted to pray with me that morning, and together we thanked our God. We asked him to please help us remember our notes and our words and to, most importantly, let his Spirit pour out through our voices and touch those who heard us.
As the final notes of the introduction finished playing, I looked out over the congregation again and watched... you squeezed my hand in response to my own squeeze, and drew in your breath. "Si - lent Night," you sang. The rumbling hum of the congregation quieted into silence as every ear and face quickly turned to you. "Ho - ly Night," perfect. Your high notes were simple, effortless and beautiful... Through it all, you nervously twisted my ring around and around my finger, but it didn't show in your sweet voice, and by the end of your verse I saw many hands in the congregation wiping tears from their eyes. A nervous twitch pricked inside me as I realized I needed to sing next and a silent prayer shot from my heart 'please don't let me kill this feeling Carson has created.' A warm feeling filled me to my toes and took the nerves away as I drew in my own breath. You stood still next to me as I sang my verse - a small miracle for your wiggly muscles - and when you came back in to join me on the third verse, you hit every note of the melody while I sang the alto in your ear.
It was, in a word, perfect. You touched people to their inner core - and I received compliment after compliment in your behalf. I'm sitting here, almost three weeks later, fighting back the tears just remembering it. I. Am so. Proud of you.
We have tried time and time again to replicate it in our living room in front of the camera, but it's never been quite the same. And now we've reached a point where you just refuse to sing it again. But I have little snippets of greatness recorded - and some full recordings where you're a bit distracted, but I suppose that's all as it should be. We were truly helped by the Spirit that Sunday morning; I guess it's fitting that we're not able to perform it quite as well on our own. Perhaps that's why I feel to try and memorialize it in words...
I can't help but feel overwhelmed with thankfulness that we were able to do it this year... because I have a feeling that if we'd done it next year, the tender memory I have of your little voice forming those words might not be quite so precious. I hope to always be able to hear that sweet phrase in my mind the way you sang it from the pulpit...
"Awll is calm... Awll is bwight."
posted at 7:01 PM