Born to Rock

May 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

I am in an auditorium, always auditoriums these days: awards ceremonies, budget meetings, graduations. This auditorium is full of parents and children in black and white, carrying stringed or shiny instruments; it is the Middle School Band/Orchestra/Chorus extravaganza. I tune out of the untuned music for a while and scan the crowd. Have any of us left middle school? The eighth grade girls are there still, mean–faced, with brand new boobs and perfectly straight long hair. The awkward ones are there too, hair slicked back in barrettes or ponytails, pants just a little short or tight. I want to tell them they’ll blossom in graduate school. There are cool guys and heavily tattooed parents. There are parents who go to everything, and parents for whom this is the only thing. There are kids there parentless. My department chair is there. Her child plays the oboe. I listen and watch and clap a little extra for my child. Why not? That’s what I’m there for.

We are all in our own middle schools and this one, in a beat when time has collapsed. I watch the band, orchestra, and chorus teachers wave their arms back and forth until the skin flaps. They are wearing the same black sleeveless dress. The songs are medleys; they melt into each other in the warm room. The big display piece is “Born to Rock,” which begins with an orchestral version of “Born to be Wild” and ends with “Radar Love.” If you haven’t already, I’m pretty sure you will hear a polished version of this in an elevator soon. This is not the polished version.

The strings players always make me feel ashamed. I had a wonderful violin teacher, but I never practiced. At my own strings performance at about this age, I decided not to press down on the bow, so I would only emit a tiny squeak: it would look like I was playing, but no one would hear me mess up. Tonight, I realize that was the kindest thing to do for all involved. Stringed instruments, another parent points out in hushed tones, take a long time to master.  

The room is full of just about every emotion I can think of. That is why even walking into a middle school is painful for so many people. It is a time of leaning maybe a little too far into one side of yourself. First attempts at the violin. It is a time when everyone is wearing the same thing because your obvious individuality begins to show itself, whether you want it to, like the pink haired girl, or you don’t, like the boy who won’t look up or sing above a whisper as he passes me. You are still full of possibility. This night of singing the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love,” while walking in step through the aisles might be the night that everyone recognizes you as a star.

I follow the chorus teacher, she looks at us from just below the middle of the stage, and dips her hands down, then up. I almost rise at her command until I realize she is talking to her students. I seem to be the only one who knows we’re all still in middle school, and everything hinges on this night.




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