Jah Unlove

The other night my son, Clyde, played in a concert. As I dropped him off backstage I looked him over one last time, trying to make sure he had everything he needed. Black pants: check. Black shoes: check. White shirt: check. White shirt tucked into the black pants: check and check and check again (“And this time keep it tucked in!”). Violin: check. Bow (yes, he has arrived without one before): check. Music: ….

“Where is your music!?” I asked frantically.

Clyde responded with a shrug. “I dunno. Don’t worry about it: the person sitting next to me always has it.”

“Who sits next to you?”

Another shrug. Followed by another another “I dunno.” And then “It’s always someone different. But they always have the music.”

I was mortified. Not only because Clyde seemed to think it was okay to rely on an apparently ever-changing roster of stand-mates to provide his music for him, but also because it was now obvious that, unbeknownst to me, someone had slipped a cuckoo into my nest. There was no other explanation, because there was no way that one of those people could have ever come from me.

I think you know who I mean by those people. I mean the ones who show up to hike Everest in flip flops, certain that once they got there other people—people like me, who like to plan things out—will supply them with the necessary gear. The ones who tell the rest of us that we worry too much, that we make too big a deal out of everything, that we should just relax, because everything, always, works out in the end. The ones I want to shake as I scream at them that the only reason anything ever works out is because someone, somewhere, had a plan. Or maybe scream that sometimes things don’t work out in the end—sometimes, in fact, things don’t work out so much so that Outside magazine writes a feature about it and Emile Hirsch plays you in the movie version.

You think I’m overreacting? I know that there is a big difference between not bringing your music to a concert and starving to death in a broken down bus in Alaska, and that winging it on Beethoven is not the same as walking barefoot down a freeway with a dog on a string while singing “Jah provide the bread,” but even though the human in me can see the difference, the mother in me cannot. The mother in me is forced to extrapolate everything into a Worst Case Scenario. And, when it comes to Clyde, I think I can argue that I have good reason.

When Clyde was a toddler he didn’t know how to swim; unfortunately, this didn’t stop him from jumping into the pool, where he would sink to the bottom like a piece of furniture, and remain there peacefully until an adult (usually one who was fully dressed and more than a little bit hysterical) would jump in and pull him out. At which point he would cough, sputter, laugh and then do it all over again. It was the best! Jump in, semi drown, get pulled out. Because that’s how things work, right? Someone is always there to pull you out—aren’t they? As a toddler it never occurred to him that the hysterical adult would not be there to fulfill their role, just as it now never occurs to him that his stand-mate at the concert might not fulfill theirs.

And that’s how I am so quick to make the connection between sheet music and slot canyons. Between Beethoven and broken down buses. And why, next time, I will be sure that Clyde has his music—as well as his shoes.

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