Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Oh Don't Go There

I must admit I was a bit shirty on the phone to my mum last night, putting in the odd dig at my old man that probably could have been left on the shelf. Occasion for the call- to suggest she suggests he calls his old school mate, who he's also been in the process of brushing off and rejecting, because his old school mate is about to die from cancer.

Possibly it wouldn't hurt you to let him chat about what's on TV for ten minutes, Pa?

Anyway, I tell her happily about where Mitts is at: pulling himself up on things, standing (in fact yesterday he started 'stepping' along the edge of the couch while standing, an exciting milestone!), blabbing lots of semi-articulated words like "da da dgggst" and "anderzz" and "itstst", yanking at books, and bashing enthusiastically on the xylophone.

"Ooh dear" she says, unenthusiastically. Then, without directly relating it to her comment, she starts to babble on about how you can start to tell if kids are going to 'be musical' at this age.

Context- Mitts is 11 months old.

She continues. At this age apparently I was waving my arms around like a conductor to my favourite music, Gilbert and Sullivan (I'd like to point out my tastes did evolve, thankfully). Mitts has actually done the same to Mussorgsky but I leave this out, because this already ridiculous piece of historical fluffery takes an ill-advised turn.

"I knew you would be musical then", she slaps in for effect.

... (pause as my blood pressure goes up a few dozen kilopascals)

"Shame that was discouraged" I understate.

"OH but we BOUGHT YOU saxophones and lessons and things" she jumps back, the usual themes. I was bought something. What more could a kid ask for?

"Yes but you-know-who then actively discouraged me" I reply, still holding back about 5 cannons of rising anger.

"Well you've got to get over it sometime" she retorts, again a bit too quickly.

"No. I. DON'T".

She shifts topics and moves away, wisely. I fume long after we finish.

Yes I got some lessons when I was very young, and a guitar, and much later was able to convince them to switch from a small car to a sax for my 21st present. I don't deny this was financially fortunate. But it counted for sweet F.A. because when this became my overwhelming passion, something I was practising several hours of every day, something I was actually getting very good at, my father attacked this love of mine with a venom I still can't fully make sense of, as part of generally attacking everything about me that he didn't identify with.

In fact in a big worked-up rant about how music was a waste of time and I had no talent anyway, he said he would support me studying "anything EXCEPT music".

This in the context of whining on all his life about how his father didn't support him going to Uni, and how I was so lucky because I'd be given all the support I needed. As it happened there weren't any relevant courses available within 1000 miles of where I lived, and the only courses I was aware of charged fees, so just as when he was a boy, in this particular context, a complete lack of support did make a difference (I actually applied for the Army so I could afford to send myself to music school, a story for another day).

Coupled with constant put-downs about how if I had any talent it would be more obvious, I'd go nowhere, be a loser and so on, this kinda fell short of encouragement.

My mum didn't actively participate, but she didn't do much to contradict this message either, until I was in my mid 20s. I remember vividly the day she said something that sounded vaguely encouraging, remember being touched by it, while reflecting on how it was an offer of hay to the horse that had already bolted. I'd ground myself up with frustration and self doubt for about 4 years when music was all I wanted to do. The dreams had blurred, the time mostly passed.

So it wasn't her fault, but in her constant babble about how when I was a little bub I did this and that before I was the age dot, I don't need her to make some claim on me being a child prodigy, or that being something she spotted and encouraged. Leave it alone, for fcuk's sake.

And here's a message to people who have at some point colossally screwed up a relationship: moving on is possible, but don't ever, ever tell us to get over it. That's a way of saying you don't really think you did anything wrong. And that's just a way of inviting a whole pile of visceral anger to leap out of the place it's been buried and fly down your throat.

I'll finish on a lighter reflection, on the merits of the internet. At the time of the arguments above I was living in Darwin, and my knowledge of the courses available to me was limited by what was on offer, or in the library of, the local Uni-Tafe. I did not know, and had no immediate way of knowing, that there were courses at places like Box Hill College that taught exactly what I wanted to learn.

It is sometimes hard to imagine that just a few years ago that sort of functional information simply wasn't available. If you didn't know something was out there, or where to start looking, then that was that. All I knew about was the Conservatorium in Sydney, and a whole bunch of fantastic music schools in the US that I could attend if I saved about a year's salary....


Ann ODyne said...

Yes exactly. Any research for personal facility is so easy ... and blogging is great catharsis too.
Just be sure that Mitts graduates to that sax after he has wrecked some bargain-priced practice instruments, OTOH don't be living vicariously through him ... oh god Parenting Is A Minefield. good luck.

Anonymous said...

My partner's family, in a less dramatic fashion, did much the same thing to my brother in law. A big ol' helping of That's Not For The Likes of Us that colours everything he does as a muso, husband and parent.

A few days ago the father outlaw was telling us about a family friend, a man who has been supporting himself as a professional muso for his entire adult life, has recently married. "I suppose he'll have to get a job now" said the father outlaw, "why? what else would he do?" replied my partner, followed by the reminder that the bloke in question really has been quite successful. We were at a gig at the time, enjoying the music together.