My daughter and I had a good laugh-or was it a cry?-one morning last week as she related her experience with her Relief Society’s program the night before.
By way of background information, my family is not blessed with musical talent. Let’s just say we’ve imported some through marriages, so there is hope for future generations and just leave it with that.
Nevertheless my beautiful, smart daughter Jenny has always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, so her husband and I conspired to buy her a violin for Christmas so she could take violin lessons.
Jenny was the high school valedictorian, got straight A’s at BYU, and works part-time from home as a CPA while raising three children. She is an excellent mother, cook, cake decorator, home decorator, and I send my projects home for her to finish.
A couple of her children have persistent health problems and her husband is away from home a lot for work and as a member of the stake presidency. They live far away from family-well, two-and-a-half hours-I think it’s far away in terms of grandchildren. As a result, she’s lonely a lot and has wanted some joy in her life.
Enter violin lessons.
She attacked the violin like everything else she has approached in life-with total, single-minded dedication and the expectation of excellence . . . pretty fast.
About six weeks into lessons she called me on her way home from one.
“I sound terrible,” she said. “The teacher says I’m doing well, but I just don’t sound as good as he does.”
“How long has he been playing, Jenny?” I asked.
“That might explain it,” I offered with my usual motherly insight.
Opportunity to perform
When she comes home to visit, I pull out my grandmother’s 100-year-old violin that will be Jenny’s eventually and we play together. Sort of. I haven’t played for 40 years. (We’re good at clearing the room out.)
So Jenny decided to perform for her Relief Society’s birthday party, planned to showcase the sisters’ achievements.
May I insert that when we had a similar program here in my ward in which we shared “hidden” talents, Jenny demonstrated how she was able, really quite impressively, to pick up a variety of objects with her toes and toss them into a laundry basket. She could gather a whole load of laundry without even breaking her stride.
Jenny was brave from the beginning of the program, being aware that one of the sisters, whom I will call “Sister Brown,” would perform. Sister Brown’s whole family is highly and professionally musical.
Jenny selected as her piece the highly acclaimed “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.” We Mormons know it as the tune of “Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing,” although I always think of Aunt Rhody, whoever she was, when I sing that hymn.
Morning after report
I called Jenny the morning after to see how it went.
“I don’t know how it went,” she said. “My hands were shaking so hard.”
“That’s vibrato,” I said, looking on the bright side.
“Well . . .” and then she started laughing. “I was right on the program after Sister Brown and she played two long piano pieces that she . . . had . . . written.” (Insert laughter where ellipses are.)
Then I started laughing. “Oh no!”
“And I think I skipped over a few notes in the middle . . . but then I think I went back and picked them up . . . but then at the end I just quit because I was playing a couple of strings at the same time.”
We were laughing so hard by that time we were crying.
“How long was your piece?” I asked, thinking it must have been at least symphony length to have afforded the opportunity for many variations.
“Three lines!” was her answer.
“But everyone clapped really hard. I mean really hard,” she said. “And then the Relief Society president came up and said I was so brave. She said she was so glad that I did that because that was what she had wanted-everyone to share their talents whether they were good or not.”
We laughed again.
“You were really brave, Jenny,” I said through my laughter tears. “I guess what you should have done afterwards was to pull off your shoes and socks and say, And now for my encore I will pick up things with my toes and throw them into a clothes basket.'”
I love it that my daughter got up and offered her talent, however scared she was and meager she believed it to be. Isn’t that what David did when facing Goliath and Nephi did when building a boat?
I love it that the Relief Society sisters clapped so loudly for her. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do for each other as we push and pull each other along the iron rod toward the Tree of Life?
I love it that Jenny will go back to her violin lesson next week and try again, then come home to practice, even if the cat yowls and rubs along the music stand when she does.
I love it that she strives to find joy in life amid the hardship because prophets have promised her it is possible and she believes them.
And, yes, maybe I will even sit down at the piano again and, inspired by my talented daughter, try once again to learn to play an easy “What Child Is This?” by still another Christmastime.
Susan Elzey is a freelance writer in beautiful Southern Virginia. You may read about her novel “Miracle of the Christmas Star” and even order it on www.mormonbooksandauthors.com