Wednesday, July 8, 2009

You Want To Play The What?

Just yesterday I read Anne Bernays' piece in The New York Times Magazine about her nice Jewish boy of a grandson who joined the Marines. Anne was in shock that her grandson, who is from a liberal New England family, decided to become a 'warfighter.' Is it any surprise that a Jewish grandmother would have a stereotypical dream for her grandchild to be a doctor or a lawyer? Or in Anne's case, a writer.

But on the eve of his graduation, Anne came full circle and fired an M-16. Anne hit the target five times! I've written here about my family evolving, but this is quite an evolution.

The article is here: Warrior Day . (I think you may have to be a member of nytimes.com to view it.)

Anne read my Lesley College application and story where I was working towards an MFA in Creative Writing before I took the year off. (Four month old baby, you know.) She wrote me an incredibly lovely letter that I still remember.

Anne is also Hester Kaplan's mother. Hester Kaplan was my mentor at Lesley for a semester. She's a wise, beautiful lady. A mother hen without the pecking. She is the goose with the golden egg. I'm staring at Hester's Facebook picture as I write this, her smile and pretty blue eyes approving. Yes, keep writing Hayley, I hear Hester saying.

What struck me about Anne's piece is how easily we -- yes, even open-minded liberals -- place our own desires on our children's futures. When I was 21, my father said to me, "You have a time limit for this writing thing. If you're not published by the time you're 35, you need to find a real job."

"Don't dictate my dreams," I said to him. And he respected that. Thankfully, I've made a living off of writing or editing in one way or another over these years. But if I hadn't? Well, I guess I'd have to think of something else. I know it was my father's way of trying to protect me. He's been supportive of me ever since, even in my quest to publish a short story... a finalist, yes. Published, not yet.

Our children make choices about who they're going to be in life. We help shape them. Sometimes inadvertently. Sometimes we're more calculated. Jake has been obsessed with puzzles and Legos since he was about a year-and-a-half-old. He had a knack for getting the right block to fit. And now, watching him build Lego houses, I can't help but dream he'll be an architect one day.

Look at me, the dreamer, trying to imagine Jake's future. It's his future, Mommy. And Mommy needs to lay off. I can still have romantic visions of a musician-architect, though. Can't I?

Jake's father is a musician. I hoped Jake would get the music gene before he was even born. Cason's been playing the piano with him and letting him strum the guitar since he was a baby.

But Jake wants to play the drums. He's said it more than once. Enough for me to take it seriously and get him lessons.

"The drum kit is going in the basement," Andy said. Because, we can encourage a musical interest without having to take Advil all day long, right? Am I ready for pounding? Not really. But I'm fascinated to see if Jake takes the same intensity towards the drums as he does with his puzzles. Because musical instruments are like puzzles. You figure out how they fit together, and there you have harmony. A connection of mind and hands. And then music.

Sure, I would love for him to play the piano.

But the drums it is.

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