Friday, February 1, 2008

The Lost Story of Meeting Tony

Names have been changed to protect the young –not necessarily the innocent, a true story, warts and all.

Last week I took Jeane, Grace and Thomas to see Tony Melendez, the musician who plays guitar with his feet, as he has no hands. It was in the church at my kids' school. My girlfriends Claire and Susan had brought along their preschool aged children as well, Kobe and Greg.

Claire is a savy mom, way cooler than me and thought to bring tootsie pops for all the children to keep them quiet during the performance. We were all feeling very good, like “proper mothers,” because we were exposing our children to diversity and culture and music and all of that on an ordinary Tuesday and it was free.

Thomas happily sucked on his third tootsie pop five minutes before the concert started. He was strapped in his stroller and I was praying he’d fall asleep. Grace and Kobe were having a bit of a theological argument in the pew, books should be shut and put in the book holder, books should be opened and thumbed through. It was a quiet three year old skirmish, mitigated by tootsie pops.

The microphones were turned on. All eyes were on the small stage that had been set up on the altar, as the classes from the school filed in to take their seats. Members of Tony’s band and family have arrived. The crowd hushes.

Tony comes out and introduces himself. Jeane looks at Tony as he starts to speak. She immediately begins to suck her finger hard and twirl her hair. She does this when she gets stressed. The music starts. People are clapping, singing along and I think, “She’ll get into it, she loves singing.” Jeane continues to stare hard at Tony. We are ¾ of the way back in the Church but she is on the end and has a clear view. She sucks harder. A blister is starting to form. I try to get her to sing like her sister, Grace or her friend, Greg. Kobe is dancing, even Thomas is humming. My girl friends chime in with additional maternal pressure, trying to encourage her to engage.

She violently shakes her head “No.” and I know, in my head, I can feel the tsunami of feeling coming towards me, “It’s going to get worse.” My mom voice whispers.

The first song ends and Jeane begins poking me. “Where are his hands?” she demands. I explain about the same time Tony does to the audience. “He doesn’t have hands.”
“Why not?”
“He was born without them.” I explain.
“Will our baby have hands?” she asks, pointing at my pregnant belly.

She begins holding her hair and sucking harder. A mean thought crosses my mind, to mention she could lose her hand by sucking and twirling but I just pat her back. Jeane puts on her coat. She never wears her coat. She stamps her feet. I ignore it. Knowing we are not leaving, she slumps next to me, still sucking her finger. I stroke her hair. By mid song, my attention has wandered to Thomas, to Grace, to the music, to Tony, and then I look over.

Jeane is in the fetal position on the pew, with her coat over her, covering every inch of her body. I peek under, she has her eyes shut, her finger in her mouth, her hair is a knotted mess and she is shaking. She opens one angry eye at me and pulls the jacket back over her face.

Feeling annoyed and embarrassed, like she is way overdoing it for someone who is five, I pull the jacket off her, stuff it behind me and explain, she is going to sit. She is going to sit up and she is going to stay for the rest of the concert. Clare sends me a concerned mother look and offers to take her out of the building. But I have my back up. I have decided, she needs to be stretched a little and this won’t hurt her.

Jeane sits stiffly for the next thirty minutes, her fingers are red and several knots will have to be cut out of her hair. I don’t care. I feel mad at me and her because the concert has been lost on both of us in the process and I wonder what if anything did Grace get out of this, let alone Jeane. I know Thomas got three lollipops and a nap.

That night, I search the kids’ library for something to help, and find Shriver’s “What’s Wrong with Timmy,” Jeane hangs on every word and seems to be better so I start to relax about the whole thing. I still worry about how to help her with the next encounter.

That weekend, Tony played at the 10 am mass, and Jeane sees him. She does not flinch or even suck her finger, but after she knows it is him, she just stands like a statue for the duration of his meditation song. My older son buys a cassette of the music.

Moving on the next week, I am cleaning up after Thomas has ransacked the girl’s room. Grace is on the bed, playing with her baby dolls and some cardboard musical instruments she made at school. She has a drum, (coffee can), a horn (paper tube with tape and streamers) and a guitar with rubber band strings.

She explains to me as I go about cleaning up, “My baby is playing like in the church.” She moves the doll’s feet to pluck the rubber bands. “I can do it too.” She plucks the strings with her toes. And somehow, everything was better.

Thought you would like to see what I learned today, don’t get so worked up, and everything will work out.

Postscript, this morning, "Jeane" went nuts this morning as only a young adolescent can at the fact that her sister "Grace" took her shirt. Today is a mass day and they have to wear button downs, which Jeane hates to the point of wearing a sour face whenever she must endure such a garment. Having to opt for a long sleeved button shirt as versus a short was beyond her coping ability. She refused to get dressed. A cat fight ensued.

As I am laying down the law about such tizzies in the morning to one, the other slips into the closet and comes back with a short sleeved button down to replace the unbearable long one. All is right with the world and I start looking for her to twirl her hair into knots or a blister on her finger.

for more amusing stories and thoughts that don't get your hair full of knots, try!

1 comment:

Larramie said...

Maybe you have to be a Mom to appreciate the irony, but I found this more thoughtful and sobering than anything else.

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