Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Friend in Need

This is a sad story, but it has a happy ending. In it, the Hammer goes to bat for her son and the Jawa, previously known mostly for his precocity and a continuing obsession with Pokemon, shines as a good friend.

For our $18,000 a year (this year), BHDS offers us 4th and 5th grade band. It's a fairly new construct, and a successful one. In short, the kids are going nuts.

To be in the band, you must choose an instrument and then commit to Monday and Tuesday practices, unless you are in soccer, in which case you commit to Monday practices and then beg the teacher via email and face-to-face meetings, to let you play soccer on Tuesdays and practice your instrument really, really hard the rest of the week until mid-November, when soccer ends.

For many years, we've been trying to interest the Jawa in musical instruments. His booming voice (inherited from his mother) lends itself well to singing, but he doesn't like choir. He wants to breakdance, but is not enjoying his hip hop dance class. We bought him a guitar for whatever mid-winter holiday you prefer to celebrate, but so far his interest has extended only to strumming it violently while his Gorillaz CD plays in the background.

I recently decided that his musical future would lie somewhere in the murky world of keyboards and computers; this after several car torturous car rides involving a homemade voice recorder and the phrase "okay, have a scone," played in parts, over and over. Perhaps, I thought, we have a mini-Moby on our hands.

So I was surprised when he burst out of his classroom last week holding a sheet of paper, shouting, "Dad! You know what instrument I want to play? The saxaphone!"

Pause here for a digression that will offend many, particularly my friend the ZinGal and, if he's reading it, the Legendary Dr. Bandeau.

But first, explanation of my own musical background: I tried the guitar when I was 8, then the trumpet when I was 10, then nothing until I was 20, except for semi-violent arguments with Noodles' Mom, who was quite an accomplished Jackson Browne-ish guitar player but unfortunately chose to hone her skills in the family room while I was watching TV. Then, suddenly, at 20, the guitar. Noodles' Mom had left one lying around, plus an Eagles songbook that had pictures of the chords.

And that's about as far as I got. Though Roger A. Hunt and I still speak fondly and nostalgically of our late 80s garage band the Stupid Americans, I never quite got past the punk rock / campfire stage, though I love playing.

This is a very long way of saying that my appreciation for actual good music -- i.e. jazz, classical, other things involving saxaphones -- is very limited, and that to me, the saxaphone has always gone hand-in-hand with loud Hawaiian shirts and guys who get really sweaty when they dance. And the big man, of course. So the cool factor of a saxaphone is completely lost on me, but hey, if he's interested in it, that's half the battle.

Yesterday was the first day of band. I went to pick up my Jawa at 4:30 (in my slick and respectable new Volvo, but that's a story for another time) and waited outside the band room. The door opened and out came a slumped over, utterly defeated Shaman, his eyes red-rimmed and full. "What's wrong?" I asked him, and put my hand on his shoulder, as I often treat him as if he were my own son. He was trying to hold it together, I could tell, and he was part of a carpool, so his actual parents, the Hammer and WineGuy, were miles, and several minutes, away.

That was it. "What's wrong?" was exactly the wrong thing to say. The kid lost it. But he still wouldn't spill. What was wrong?

"I...I...I'm okay," he sputtered.

"Is there anything I can do? Is your mom here?"

"No. " He pointed at the MackDaddy, who would be driving him home. Confused, I entered the band room, where the somewhat acerbic band teacher was doling out instrument assignments. Not everyone, it seemed, would be getting their favorite instruments. The Shaman, who'd dreamed long and hard about playing the trumpet, was assigned the comic book-like trombone instead. His trumpet assignment had gone to the tiny, energetic Maetal, who moonlights in the winter as a shut-down point guard on our basketball team.

The Jawa had his saxaphone gig, along with a stern warning to "not fall behind" during soccer. But somewhere out in the hall, the Shaman was crushed, and the Jawa, in a move that fills my parenting heart with great joy, was concerned about his friend.

He told the teacher what had happened, and then went in search of his injured pal. Unfortunately, he'd already slunk off with his carpool. The issue went unresolved.

That night, at the first meeting of the marketing committee (of which I am, surprisingly, part), the Hammer was beside herself. She'd returned from her job busting polluters to find her child melted into a pool of sadness, her husband WineGuy on edge and absolutely no explanation for the deed that started the whole thing.

"That's it!" she said as we stood outside of my bright and shiny blue metallic Volvo following the meeting. "I want some answers!" In true form, she'd already sent emails and voice mails to the head of campus, the head of the music department and the band teacher. None had responded.

Now get this straight: despite her hectic schedule, the Hammer gives her time to the school. Probably more than any other full-time worker, she's there. Not one to usually point this out, on this night the incensed Hammer did just that. "I'd like to see some of these people try out my life for just one week!" she growled, barely visible over the top of my new tough-looking roof rails. The Hammer may be mighty, but she tops out at barely 5'4".

I returned home in great anticipation of the premiere of the new Sorkin dramedy, only to have my revery interrupted by a 10:00 pm phone call. The Hammer.

"I got home to a crying child," she said. "He hadn't stopped." But her mood changed. "I just want to tell you that everything's okay. I talked to the teacher and he can play the trumpet. And it's because of your child."

It was the Jawa, back at school who had, taking a short break from scheming to get money for new Lego sets, alerted the teacher to the Shaman's situation. The teacher had shared this with the Hammer, who was now near tears in appreciation. And I've got to admit, it's a very emotional thing for a parent to find out that his kid is doing good things all on his own without any coaching. Of course, I'm sure it helped the Shaman's cause that he's got a mom who'll go to bat for him, taking on enormous helpings of school administrative power to get justice. I'm not sure I'd go that far.

So all is well. A new generation of bandos is unleashed, their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band uniforms and huge, coconut cake-looking hats are out there somewhere, waiting.

Oh, and did I mention that I got a new car?


Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

the sax is cool! go jawa! besides, weren't you into the special's and the like? they had a sax, didn't they?

2:37 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

if you're going to mention the new Vovlo (twice) you probably should not mention how much the jawa's school costs. wrecks your poverty-stricken cred.

btw, good on ya', jawa! just when you think you can't take another minute, they do something redeeming.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous zin ga said...

Well at least you mentioned "the big man".

What about this car?

6:10 PM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

Awwww, such kind things you say about little ol me. The Shaman is now happy but we get the "pleasure" of listening to the trumpet at all hours. It takes a village. I earned my blog name on this one (aka Attack Mom). BTW, I'm only 5'2". Nice car.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

When my kids come home from school today we are hitching up the wagon and heading into town for Count Burpalot's trumpet lesson and Noodle's saxaphone lesson. Next time we visit Jawa maybe we should grab Shaman and they can form their own band. Performing in the basement, of course, with the door closed...

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Shaman said...

When I read this I was in tears from reading what strange stuff I did. I regret doing some of those things but that's the past. Now I just enjoy playing the trumpet, thanks to Jawa. Hey, a band sounds like fun!

8:03 PM  
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