Parents have good intentions – to provide a loving, secure and stimulating environment and opportunities for their children to develop into well-functioning individuals. To fulfill this goal, they do a great deal. They study the individual character, interests and capabilities of their children. They plot and act, apply hard-won resources and invest personal time and energy to create the conditions necessary for these intentions to be realized. However, there may be times when parents must feel that their good actions seem to be nothing less than casting pearls before swine.
“Hello! My name is Suburbanlife, and I am a member of that tribe known as Swine.” ( This is my A.A. moment….)
My Mother and Father, very competent amateur pianist and violinist, provided a home for us kids where the opportunity to develop familiarity with and appreciation of music, among many other offerings of a culture, daily presented itself. Our life was a plentifully laden smorgasbord where possibility abounded. We feasted, daily.
My sister developed a taste for the sounds made by the piano. She loved the instrument, learned intimately well how to coax music from its keys and delighted in the dextrous play of her increasingly skilled fingers. There may have been times when she was distracted from her devotion to playing the piano by other worldly attractions, however its hold over her interest has proved to be strong and persistent. Not only is she a very skilled musician, but also teaches these skills to children now, with great humour, ingenuity and pleasure. She has made a lovely pearl necklace for herself, which she keeps lengthening daily. She is definitely not of the swine tribe!
As a small child I pestered my dad to let me hold the violin, to wipe the rosin from under the strings after he played it, to apply rosin to the bow and to put the violin into its hard case and shut it with a satisfying click. I admired the violin’s russet gloss, wondered at its unique form and studied its beautifully scrolled head with the silky tuning pegs. Every material used to make the various components of a violin held a special fascination. The bow, also, was a marvel of sculptural beauty – horse-hairs aligned just so to be tensioned and relaxed as desired. The sounds that issued from the friction of the bow drawn over the strings, as I learned, ranged from an irritatingly demented screech (caused by careless and awkward movements) to smooth glissandos. Time passed. I practised, sometimes with great concentration and keenness and other times under duress. However, while my bowing technique improved over time, the fingering dexterity of my left hand remained stiff and awkward. To my great dismay I couldn’t get the hang of making vibrato happen, no matter how hard I tried. Skilled and patient teachers encouraged – I felt perpetually frustrated and disgusted with my lack of capacity.
When I was 12 years old, father gave me a Storioni violin to encourage me to persist. It was an absolute gem of an instrument. In the right hands it made the most beautiful music. Unfortunately, not in my hands. My frustration and discouragement came to a head on a snowy winter evening. My parents insited that I enter a violin competition, for my grade level. I begged to not have to compete, because I knew that my skills were sub-standard and were bound to disappoint any expectation my parents may have had from me in this regard. They prevailed, so off I trudged in the snow to meet my fate at the adjudication. It was a trial! Afterward, disgusted and humiliated, I took the long way home to work off my anxious feeling of failure. Angry, I whacked the hard case containing the Storioni against every tree I passed. There were many trees to walk by that evening; the only witness to my transgression Orion, overhead. After numerous bangings of the violin case it finally ocurred to me that I may be harming the violin. Under a street-light I set the case on a snow-bank, opened it and much to my relief, found it unscathed. On arriving home, announcing the results of the competition and telling my parentsof my reaction and actions on the way home I said that from that moment on I would no longer take violin lessons, or pick up the violin, ever again. Much persuasive argument and insistence ensued to no avail. Wild horses could not drag me back to the violin.
Glad to say, the violin survived my brutish ministrations and was eventually gifted to a young violinist who fell in love with it and used it to sublime effect.
No matter how much a pig may desire to collect pearls, string them and wear them to their and others’ delight to achieve this goes against its natural capacity. Now, this does not mean that the pig is unable to experience a love of and pleasure in pearls, it merely means that wearing them is not an option for it.
I still love to hear the violin being played and have a cheap, student-grade violin found at a garage sale. It sits in a closet here, and sometimes when I am alone in the house I bring it out to play some reels.