The sweetest song

On some days, my evenings are short and a mess, a puddle of things and undone tasks lying around a messy kitchen.

There is Japanese homework and Maths equations, dinner bubbling on the stovetop, questions about allegory and allusions, maps to trace and viola notes to be perfected. We walk in perfect circles around the things that make up our minutes, the music sheets, the markers, the glue sticks, the cue cards for some presentation. The phone rings several times, the clock moves in obstinate steps and my voice and hers are sometimes lost in the mad scramble. There is so much to do, there is so little time.

We work on autopilot, ticking off invisible lists, my mother’s words echoing in my ears as my instructions perhaps echo in Miss A’s.

“It all passes far too soon,” my mother often says. “They grow up too soon, they leave home when you are not ready and time is rarely on our side.”

On most bustling evenings, I don’t think of the future. I think of the next hour or the next day or the next task before we go to bed. The future is out there, a moody apparition at the end of street, an unknown presence hiding in the nooks of our days, half hazy and half clear, half dream and half reality.

But on some nights like yesterday, time stops rushing and works with me – the kitchen is clean, the homework is packed away and Miss A practices her music in her room and there is no other sound on this wintry night. I can only hear half the notes from where I am.  I don’t always know all her pieces now, sometimes she plays music that is a complete surprise, her fingers scaling the viola, coaxing it to sing.

Most days I knock on her door and go in to listen. I sit at the edge of her bed and nod when she explains her notes. Today, I hover outisde the closed door and hear her play – the troughs, the crescendos, the pauses, the missed notes, all of it in all its  raw glory. I don’t knock. I don’t ask her what she is playing. I wait till she moves to another piece, yet another piece of music that is perhaps familiar and perhaps not.

Because in the chaos of these busy evenings, there are too many knowns and not enough surprises.

And as she grows up and finds her own words, I am learning that the sweetest songs are in languages that I don’t always understand.


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