My Mother Was a Liar. Dad Too.
By Wm. May
Published: 12/31/16 Topics: Comments: -
Our family loved music.
Mom played piano and organ in the church. My father never missed a church choir practice. They had grown up together in a small North Dakota town. He out on the farm. She the daughter of the local Ford auto dealer.
At the age of 15, her father had decided Mom's niece, then age 6, was going to be the next Shirley Temple and moved the entire family to Hollywood California.
Mom attended the famous Hollywood high school, rubbed elbows with famous movie star kids and eventually became their accompanist because Mom, it seems, was a piano virtuoso.
She had true perfect pitch, could play any song by ear after hearing it once including, not only pop tunes, but classical pieces but also honky tonk, ad lib jazz and just about anything else you could throw at her.
Mom had, what in music circles, is referred to as an amazing "touch." The kind of mastery that even very well accomplished keyboard players aspire to and seldom achieve.
Luckily, Mom and Dad linked up again after she graduated from high school. They married, before he was pulled away to war for three years and then, as the slogan goes, lived happily ever after.
Growing up she had me take piano and accordion lessons. In fourth grade I started in the school band playing trumpet up through high school. Little by little I realize how unattainable my Mom's skills were.
But it was in fourth grade that my music took a dangerous turn. I heard the Beatles on the radio.
Soon I wanted to play the guitar and, of course, my mother encouraged anything to do with music. Soon thereafter my Mother began to lie with great regularity.
Like every other Beatles fan, I formed a band in fourth grade, with other 10, 11 and 12 year olds. Tired of rehearsing in our garage, we somehow convinced our school to allow us to play in front of students.
My Mom attended of course and afterwards took me aside and said, "My goodness, that was absolutely first rate. I am so proud of you."
Now this was music my mother probably hated, although she did seem to like most any kind. It was certainly far less sophisticated and was undoubtedly played out of tune, with an unsteady beat, and sung by kids with shaky voices. It was far too loud.
It was only years later that I realized the music must have sounded terrible to everyone and dreadful to a concert level pianist. But she never let on that she knew better. In fact, she was an accomplished liar because I believed every word of her praise for decades.
My father did not believe that his children could "Do no wrong." He was a kind and quiet guy, but we kids could definitely do wrong with the important things. You did not disrespect people. You did not make fun of others. You definitely had to help with anything that came your way, and you did it with joy and without complaint.
I thought he walked on water, but all these years later, I realize he too had lied because after that same performance, he said "Bill, where did you learn to play that way? I am proud to be your dad."
He wasn't lying about being proud. But when a man with an amazing voice and musical skills praises an incompetent musician, I guess we need to call that a lie also.
Both parents continued to fib for many many years, and almost every day. When their kids made any small achievement, and even when they failed. They gloated when I graduated junior high school, high school, college and after I started my own music and creative arts businesses.
They beamed when my wife and son succeeded. When my bothers and their kids did most anything of note, my mom's eyes would gleam, my dad's smile would beam and they were persistent in their praise.
Both my parents gave me many other skills in life. But mostly what they gave me was unabashed love and lavish praise. To this day, it's my most valued treasure. So I remind myself to say how proud I am of my family, friends, and coworkers.
It does not matter if their performance is exemplary, or if sometimes I know it's not great, it matters greatly that I lie to them. Soon, they make my praise come true.
Author: Wm. May
Blog #: 0510 – 12/31/16
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