Smartmom’s Girl Has Her Own Olympic Moment

February 28, 2010

From this week’s Brooklyn Paper:

Smartmom, like many around the world, has been watching the Olympics from her new couch. Ice skating, snowboarding, alpine skiing — it’s been an adrenaline filled week in Vancouver and in Smartmom’s Third Street living room.

Smartmom is especially intrigued by the parents of the champions. What must it be like to sit in the stands and watch your child put to the ultimate test? Imagine the clenched teeth, the heartburn, the headaches. It must be close to unbearable.

Then again, think of the jumping-up-and-down pride and excitement when your child is up there on the podium. Think of the tears as you watch your child holding a gold, silver or bronze (yes, even bronze) medal, singing along to the national anthem.

Talk about motherly pride.

But Smartmom knows what it’s like sitting in the stands while her beloved child is put to the test.

Sure, the Oh So Feisty One’s piano recital last month at the Prospect Park Residence on Grand Army Plaza isn’t Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of stress and agita. The morning of the recital, OSFO was still practicing her piece, trying to get through the whole thing without a mistake. But success was elusive.

Smartmom kept telling OSFO to play it again and again on the electronic keyboard in the dining room. And she did. Valiantly, OSFO struggled to get through some of the trickier measures. But it was like she was a alpine skier on a particularly slippery slope at Cyprus Mountain, OSFO just wasn’t able to deliver the goods.

Again, again, Smartmom said. And OSFO practiced until it came time to get dressed and go to the recital. Stoically, OSFO left without once getting through the piece without an error.

Smartmom put the morning’s practice out of her mind as she and Hepcat found seats at the recital. The annual Valentine’s Day recital is a treat for the elderly residents of this Park Slope assisted living facility and a chance for the parents of the studio’s young pianists and flutists to hear their children perform. Needless to say, Smartmom was stressing. Would OSFO pull it off? Would she be able to get through the entire piece without a mistake? Would she even make it through the piece? These questions were pulsating in Smartmom’s brain as she listened to the many young performers.

OSFO was number 15 on the program and Smartmom waited nervously as adorable 4- and 5-year-olds played their simple Suzuki pieces and took deep bows when they were done.

Smartmom felt for the young flutists, who are just learning to get a sound out of that difficult instrument.

She was impressed to hear children that she’s heard many times before now playing complex pieces with technical skill and feeling. Sure, there were plenty of wrong notes and errant squawks on the flute, but it was all in good fun, and the children seemed to survive their performances with their egos intact.

Then it was OSFO’s turn.

Smartmom was proud of her girl. Despite the fact that she had had such a difficult dress rehearsal, she looked cool, calm and collected when she got up to play. In fact, she looked especially beautiful in a black sweater, tight grey jeans and a neat ponytail.

As she began to play, Smartmom crossed her fingers (inwardly) and willed her daughter to somehow get through the piece without a hitch. At the start, she played beautifully, her fingers moving confidently up and down the keyboard.

Smartmom relaxed as she listened to her daughter’s effortless musicality.

And then she got to the difficult part of the piece and things did not go well. OSFO’s fingers attempted to play a major chord but dissonance came out instead. She tried again. But again there was disharmony where harmony was required.

Smartmom squirmed in her seat. She pressed her teeth together and clenched her stomach as her daughter struggled on the makeshift stage to find her way back into the piece. For 10 seconds, maybe it was only eight, OSFO fingers did not move as she mentally navigated the rest of the piece.

Smartmom felt for her girl with every inch of her maternal being. But then, just when Smartmom thought all was lost, OSFO’s fingers remembered what to do and Smartmom listened as OSFO made it to the conclusion of the piece, played the final chord with certainty and beauty and rose to take a deep bow.

Smartmom clapped louder than any other person in the room so proud was she of her girl. She clapped as loud as the parent of Shaun White after his gold medal snowboarding stunt. She clapped as loud as the mother of Lindsey Vonn or Apolo Ohno’s father after their gold medal races.

Yes, OSFO had struggled. Yes, she had made a mistake. Yes, she had been paralyzed in silence for what felt like the longest eight, maybe six, seconds in the world.

But OSFO ultimately triumphed because she didn’t give up, she ploughed through, and made it to the end. Just like the champions in Vancouver, who have to pick themselves up from a fall and keep skating, skiing, snowboarding until they are through.

When the recital was over both Smartmom and Hepcat couldn’t wait to congratulate their girl.

“We’re so proud of you,” Hepcat said. “You didn’t give up and to us, and that’s the best thing of all.”

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One Comment on Smartmom’s Girl Has Her Own Olympic Moment

  1. Peter Loffredo on Sun, 28th Feb 2010 11:17 am
  2. A very good friend of mine, who now lives in L.A., is a professional drummer, and has played for some well-known people in some very exclusive venues. I have seen him perform on several occasions. I always remember something he told me one time early on, when I commented on his performance, and how remarkable it was that he was always perfect.
    “Perfect?!” he replied. “Nah. We make mistakes every night, but you don’t notice it because we just keep playing.”
    I am passing on that lesson to my 8-year old, who is currently learning the piano, along with this quote from one Henry Van Dyke: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”