Friday, July 12, 2013

Amateur or Professional?

Because . . . even werewolves like the violin.

"I'd like to buy some new strings for my violin," I told a teenager who stood behind the counter at a tiny music store. I nearly coughed from all the dust clinging to the instruments around us.  But I smiled nonetheless, trying to be extra nice.
    The young clerk studied everything about me, chewed a huge wad of gum, then asked condescendingly, "Amateur or Professional strings?"
    #1  WHY was she chewing gum?  Who cared she had rhythm even as she chewed--THAT was unprofessional.
    #2  Wasn't her question a bit offensive?
    "Pro . . . fes . . . sional?" I drew out the word, doubting myself.
    "Really," she scoffed.  "Fine then, what brand?"
    Was this twenty questions?  I just wanted some stupid strings to play for a gig I'd been HIRED for.
    "Adurrio?" I muttered, forgetting the name because I have post-pregnancy brain--always.
    She laughed so hard she bent from the exertion.  "Correction. D'addario.  That's the kind my teacher uses." She turned and grabbed a pack while whispering, "Amateur."
    I wanted to grab a dusty violin from the wall and show that CHILD a thing or two.  I became a professional when she was still poo'n in diapers!  I became a professional--who didn't have to worry about nice strings making me sound good.  I know this might sound conceited, but playing the violin is one thing I'm good at.  In high school I didn't feel worth much.  I was usually self-conscious and nervousBut when I played my violin, people saw me differently.  I made friends and guys asked me out.  It was as if my soul finally came through the music and kids thought I had value--for once.
    I blinked, staring at the girl who held out amateur strings for me to buy.  I could have shown her up, and made her feel like crap, I really could have.  But instead, I let her have her moment and I walked from the store.
    When I got home, I strung my violin, went outside and played a haunting song in my backyard.  The birds stopped singing and just listened.  A tall farmer who lives behind me quit whistling.  The world stirred and all the delicate things in nature danced within the music of those amateur strings. When I finished, the farmer clapped.  He yelled from over the fence, "You're the best fiddler I've ever heard of.  And to think, people wouldn't guess unless they knew."
    "Thanks, Mike.  That's the beauty of it though.  It's my secret." His recognition felt nice.  I wondered for a moment why I hadn't proven myself to that teenage clerk.  The answer came almost as quickly as the question . . . because I'd finally found a bit of worth inside myself, and it hadn't come from people saying how great I am at the violin.    

Here's a video my sweet cousin Farrah taped at one of our performances this spring.