Read Old Man Scanlon


29 May 2013

For love and duty Gram and I went to our twin granddaughters' final middle school chorus performance. Unlike the interminable ordeal of a dance recital, this concert of bands and choruses from their school's upper and lower grades was not the endurance marathon that you might assume. As long as you could suspend your strictest musical standards, and keep your expectations of genteel audience behavior under tight rein, you'd be okay, though understandably it was not something the girls' sophomore brother could bear to subject himself to. During the hour and a half event even I, a former high school trombone player and therefore musically illiterate, could tell that a couple years of practice and brain growth distinguished the eighth-grade band's performance from the sixth-grade band's. All the youngsters compensated for the shortfalls in harmony and rhythm with their enthusiasm, an endearing exuberance that allowed us to overlook a multitude of sins.

We arrive half an hour early to get good seats. The high school auditorium fills fast, containing far more people than typically show up at town meetings, a regular occurrence at this venue. We meet Mom, who'd delivered the girls even earlier. Her news is that our granddaughters boiled over with indignation when they found out Gram and I would be attending. I understand all too well the need to excel in public and yet be mortified by it, and I remember what it was like to be fourteen. I remember the massive waves of negative emotion, and I'm grateful that I can't recall the now-trivial things that set me off. Of course, it was always my parents' fault—I knew they were deliberately tormenting me. I'm inclined, out of grandfatherliness and my own experience, to cut the girls some slack.

I feel affection, pride, and respect as Mom tells us how she dealt with the meltdown. She embraced her adult role, foregoing easy cajolery and bribery, and delivered to the girls a heartfelt and confident talk, destined to be a family classic. In a nutshell: "I'm the Mom; it's not all about you; I'm teaching you how to be adults." They simmered down, perhaps not instantly, but when we saw them post-concert they were happy and gracious. I'm proud, too, of those blossoming young ladies. Gram's photos from the night capture their impishness, innocence, and outpouring of song. I can't gaze at them with a dry eye.