My first piano recital was when I was ten years old. The recital was held in a small room located on the top floor of an old, local book store. Two baby grand pianos--shiny and ominous--sat on a carpet-covered stage at the back of the room. Fruit punch and Milano cookies were laid out on long tables draped in white tablecloths; refreshments to be served at the conclusion of the program.
After sitting through a variety of pieces--everything from "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to "Canon in D"--it was my turn to perform. My stomach was in my throat and my heart was racing. I slowly crept towards the piano bench, dragging my Mary Jane-clad feet. They felt as heavy as cement.
I distinctly remember thinking, as I sat on the bench, that the slick, black and white piano keys looked enormous and foreboding! The keyboard--like a toothy monster anxiously waiting to swallow me whole--appeared to be wickedly grinning at me, daring me to place my tiny, ten year old fingers at Middle C.
I began to play an off tempo version of "Pop Goes the Weasel." The choppy way I played the song was blatant evidence of my terror. I had never been more nervous in my life! There was a "repeat" at the end of the song, so I was to play through it twice. The first time through was barely decent, and the second time through the song was unrecognizable. I didn't even play the same ending! I hit a couple of wrong notes, then stopped abruptly. I took a bow and quickly got off of the stage.
I felt a sense of relief when I sat down next to my parents. But the relief soon turned to disappointment. I had made many mistakes. My parents encouraged me to avoid dwelling on them and to move forward. At that moment, I decided to practice more and to work hard. I would grow and improve, and then I would do my best.
I occasionally think of that recital, and how the experience I had then is similar to my life now. I have "taken the stage" to perform my own rendition of "motherhood"--a role that plays like an extraordinary song--and I am scared! I am going to have to work hard, and it is going to be difficult. There will be mistakes--discordant notes of worry and doubt, choppy and off tempo melodies of fear and insecurity and adversity--but I can choose to learn from them. I can choose to keep moving, keep "practicing." I will grow and improve, and then I will do my best.
If motherhood is like a song I must learn to play, I know it will be my most challenging piece.
I know it will be my greatest performance.