By Treena Mielke
Years ago, in a different time and place, I was a one of those moms who frequented arenas and gymnasiums and music recitals.
I transported skates and hockey equipment and gymnastic gear, securing the shields of bravery and inspiration over my children’s little hearts with whispered words of encouragement and love.
But, when the last child crammed her cherished CDs, her grandma’s homemade quilt and the last load of neatly folded laundry into her vehicle, resolutely turning her wheels down the one-way road leading to adulthood and her own apartment, I thought those doors had closed behind me for ever.
But, it turned out I was wrong.
I’m a grandma now and I’m back!
It’s even better this time. In fact, it’s incredibly awesome.
It is so easy. Being a grandma means you just have to show up, slip gracefully into a chair someone, who knows you are usually late, has saved for you, look around and smile benevolently at everyone.
They all smile back. I have noticed that people return smiles to grandmas and young moms pushing strollers and people walking little dogs on leashes.
Being a grandma means I get to watch ball games, tae kwon do tournaments, cheer and gymnastic competitions, skating fun meets, hockey and swimming. And last, but not least, music recitals.
It is incredibly awesome to be the grandma.
However, this year I made a decision, which put me out of the comfort zone of just being a grandma sitting in the audience, looking all serene and knowledgeable, and, just a tiny bit smug to being an absolutely terrified participant.
I was attending a piano recital, but this time, as one of the students. I actually sat at the piano and fumbled my way through a particularly lovely melody called, “When the River Meets the Sea.” I had practiced “the song” for about a million hours until my fingers ached and I could hear it in my head when I cooked supper, when I did the dishes, when I went for coffee, when I talked on the phone and when I finally put my head down on my pillow to go to sleep.
I grew to hate “the song”, but still it played on and on in my head relentlessly, like a record spinning out of control.
I have been taking piano lessons for about three years, proving only that I have much more determination than skill at the keyboard, but, still I plod along, being ridiculously happy when I master a song, any song with minimal mistakes.
My piano teacher who is kind, and only slightly devious, said I should play in her recital. I said “no.” She said, “it’s not just about you, you should do it so other old people will be inspired. Actually, I believe she used the word, “mature.” Again I said, “no”. She said, “Think how proud your grandchildren would be.”
I said, “Well, maybe.”
Anyway, before I knew it, I was at the recital, wiping my clammy hands on my skirt and lacing my fingers together to keep them from trembling. I smoothed down my skirt, which I had worn because of its flamboyant bright oranges and blues. I was hoping the skirt would portray boldness and confidence on the outside and these traits would somehow transfer themselves to my insides, which were doing a nervous jiggle, kind of like Jell-o that had not quite set.
Well, I played “the song”, not well, but I played it and I dedicated it to my grandchildren because I wanted them to know that I got it.
I got that recitals can be horrible, frightening events and it doesn’t matter how yummy the snacks are later!
I got that thinking happy thoughts and smiling and breathing deeply is much, much easier if you are in the audience, not in front of it.
And I got that they are very brave people and being a kid is fun most of the time, but not all the time.
But mostly I got that stepping out of one’s safe little comfort zone, no matter how that looks, is not easy.
And fear has no age limit.
Treena Mielke is editor of the Rimbey Review and a columnist for the Black Press newspaper chain.