Monday, October 19, 2015

Busker in training

Yesterday morning Kamal wanted to take his ukulele with him to the farmers' market. There's always a different band playing, and Kamal decided he wanted to play along with the band. Which sounded lovely, except for two things: 1) We didn't have any way of knowing whether the band would be amenable to Kamal playing along--and, really, I could see how having a three-year-old suddenly joining the lineup might cramp a band's style in a big way; and 2) we walk to the farmers' market, meaning if Kamal decided he was too tired to walk home, I'd end up carrying Kamal plus a ukulele.

But separating a boy from his instrument doesn't really fit with my parenting style. I figured if the band didn't want a tiny, imperious addition, we could always set him up somewhere away from the main stage and he would (I hoped) happily sing and play on himself, and I'd be the admiring audience. So off we strolled to the market, Kamal carrying his ukulele case and dressed in an oversized coat with lots of pockets looking very much like a proper busker.

When we got there there were a million things for Kamal to do before contemplating the music scene. He needed to direct me to the restroom and sit on the potty there--not because he needed to pee or anything, just experimentally. Then he needed to locate a "chocolate treat": I got him a slice of the incomparable chocolate babka from Goodman's Jewish Deli. Then he wanted to sit down in the shade to eat a little of it. Then he wanted to try to juggle some of the bouncy balls that the organizers of the market kindly put out for kiddos. Then there were hula hoops. Then his favorite babysitter showed up and while she and I chatted Kamal helped himself to his water bottle and more of his babka from inside my purse.

Then he took his ukulele out of  his case, a good twenty yards or so from the musicians, announced to the air in front of him, "This song called 'A, B, C Song' and bellowed the alphabet at unprecedented volume. This was immediately followed by "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," even louder.

A few people turned around and blinked at him. One man clapped at the end of the alphabet song. Then more people turned around. Then the band stopped playing. Then at the end of "Twinkle," about twenty people applauded for Kamal, who looked pleased but not surprised.

And this happened. The two musicians, Karl and Karla, were unbelievably great. They called Kamal up on stage and gamely played his choice of song, which was "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." He was excited but scared--he really wanted to go up, but wouldn't play unless I came up too. And up I went, dying a little inside from self-consciousness, but moved by mother-love, and sort of hid behind the speakers while Kamal did his thing.

He just shone. He is so shy in so many ways, but for whatever reason when there is a stage with musicians on it he feels like he belongs there. My mission as a parent is to not squash that thing, that confidence, that comfort with making beautiful and interesting sounds for other people. Whatever it takes to let him be his own wonderful, mysterious self, whenever it's in my power, I will do. Because then I get to see the spectacular gift that he is unfurl and bloom, expansive and delicately fragranced, nuanced and bright.

Anyways. It was a wonderful morning, mostly because of the generosity of those gorgeous musicians and the thoughtfulness of the market organizers. And I did end up carrying a happily exhausted K-small home on my shoulders with the ukulele case looped over my arm. And I didn't mind even a little bit.

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