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December 10, 2014

Butterflies Make Music Too

I can’t do this.

I… can’t… there’s just no way.

This thing in my hands has never meant as much to me as it does to my dad. I find it too awkward, more of a burden than something I actually want to use. I’m no good with it. I blow into it, but all that comes out is noise. Not music. Noise.

“Practice,” he says. “You have to practice, or you will never get any good.”

“You’re good. Grandma and Grandpa are good. Why am I different?”

“It’s in our blood. It’s in your blood. But you can’t harness it without practice.”

“But I have been practicing. It’s all I’ve done since I was seven. And before that, you and mom were showering me with toy plastic ones. I’m sure that I’ve been holding one of these since the moment I was born.”

Dad smiles. “Close.”

That only makes it worse. I’ve been playing forever, and I’m still not any good. Dad has to be frustrated with me. There’s no way it took him this long to learn how to play. I’ve heard him. He’s amazing, even better than his parents, and they used to get paid to tour around and perform for people.

Me, well, I can’t even manage being the best in music class. My teacher says the same thing Dad does, that I don’t practice enough. They both seem to think that if I just keep working at it, my fingers will magically learn how to cover the right holes at the right time. They won’t.

I put my flute down on the stand in front of me and breathe deeply.

“How am I possibly going to pull this off?”

There are so many people waiting outside, more people than I have ever performed for before. This isn’t some family occasion (though those are no walk in the park, either), and it’s not a school recital. This feels like a concert. It’s a real, genuine performance. It’s standing up on stage in front of hundreds of strangers.

And my parents are the reason I’m here. I’m their daughter. I’m what happens when a musician makes a baby. My cries were supposed to be lullabies, and my farts were meant to be sold on albums. I shouldn’t even have to try.

Except I do. Except I suck.

Practice, I hear Dad say in my head. Practice, sweetheart.

I am, I say back. I practice all the time. There has to be more to my life than just practicing. I can’t spend all day and night blowing into a flute. I see musical notes in my sleep. My fingers go through the motions as I sit empty handed at the back of a car. Certain songs permanently play through my head on repeat.

I practice too much to have a social life, with the few friends I once had deciding that they had better things to do than wait for me to put down my flute. I practice too much to read books, despite how much I love them. Forget TV shows, movies, and video games. I only have time for the flute.

And I’m starting to hate it.

I want nothing to do with it.

I want a life. I want my life.

I want to do anything other than play the flute.

But I don’t have that option. I can’t walk out now, not with so many people waiting for me to walk out on stage. That would be more embarrassing than not going out there at all! And my parents would never hear the end of it. How could they give birth to such an awful child?

No, I can’t do that to them. I have to go out there. I have to do this.

I need to yank this scab off and get on with my life. I may even feel better afterwards, like getting a shot. I dread them, but they never hurt as bad as I make them out to, and I’m supposedly better after the experience. Well, Mom tells me I’m better. All I notice is that my arm’s sore.

But I won’t get a sore arm from this. The only thing that could possibly get bruised is my ego. I can bounce back from that.

And if not, maybe I’ll finally be free from this. If I’m bad enough, maybe my parents will see that I’m a lost cause. Then I can put the flute down once and for all.

Only… I don’t know if I want that. I’ve been holding a flute for so long that I can’t imagine doing anything else, no matter how much I may want to. This instrument is a part of my family, and by now, it feels like a part of me.

I pick up the flute and stand by the door. Any second, someone is going to call my name, and while I’m not entirely sure what will happen at that point, I think it will involve my walking out onto the stage.

I want to make my parents proud. Twenty years from now, I’ll be sitting where they are, and my child will be just as nervous as I was.

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“Butterflies Make Music Too” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.