We have a son that sings all the time at home. The shower, before he falls asleep at night, first thing when he wakes up in the morning, in the car, while riding his bike, sing, sing, sing, the boy just loves to sing. So, when determining his schedule for freshman year in the brand new program he’s a part of for kids with learning differences, we were giving three choices of electives: art, drama, or choir. We didn’t even have to think about it, choir it was, after all, the boy just loved to sing!
In September I bought him a Christmas-y looking button-down shirt in anticipation of the Christmas choir concert I was sure would be coming. Grandparents and friends asked early if there would be a Christmas concert, and if so, would he be up there singing. “I’m sure there will be, and I’m sure he’ll be in it, I’ll let you know as soon as I have the details,” I said, reassuringly.
Funny thing about memory, it’s selective, faulty, and there are built-in devices to help block big, huge chunks of it. You never forget how to ride a bike, but the pain of childbirth? Poof. Same with Christmas concerts, apparently. Despite the fact my son had been not in one, not in two, not even in three, but NINE Christmas concerts and never opened his mouth one single time, I just fully believed he’d sing not only in choir, but for sure in the Christmas concert.
Started getting e-mails from the choir teacher in late September. “Any suggestions how I can get your son to sing?” They went from there. We tried bribes. We tried threats. We tried assigning special students to stand next to him to help him know when his part (bass) was supposed to sing. “When Lorenzo sings, you sing,” we reiterated. When that didn’t work we arranged a special 1:1 choir teaching assistant, and angel named Jeff that took the only free period he’d had in four long years in a rigorous college prep high school, and gave it up to get my son to sing.
Not a peep for weeks and weeks, and then finally an e-mail from the choir director, “Rojo sang today in choir! Not very much or for very long, but he sang.”
I’d never fully considered just how hard it would be for a boy that can read, but not quickly, to follow the written words of unfamiliar songs, let alone read music. I’d never fully considered how overwhelming it must be to keep track of his part, amidst three others, while standing (because of size and section), smack dab in the middle of 30 other kids. I’d never considered that this might not be only difficult, but totally impossible.
Got an e-mail from the choir director last week asking if I thought Rojo would hold a lighted candle for the two songs that were going to be sung in the darkened auditorium. “Sure!” I said, “no problem!” Then his special ed. teacher asked me if the choir director had contacted me – she’d heard there would be candles involved and had her heavy doubts he’d be good with that, since he seemed to adamantly avoid the oven when they cooked in class, going so far as to use his foot to (try to) open and close the oven.
I decided to ask Rojo. “Rojo? Will you hold a lighted candle during the Christmas concert?”
“NO WAY!” he said.
“Will you hold a candle that isn’t lighted?”“NO WAY!”
“What WILL you hold?”
“I will hold a carrot.”
I e-mailed the choir director to tell him that he was more than welcome to encourage the whole candle thing, but our best hope was probably that he be talked into holding an unlighted candle, and under no circumstances was he to be allowed to hold a carrot – my constitution is only so strong.
Sunday night was the concert. Rojo had ten people in his cheering section, three grandparents, two parents, a sister, an aunt, his Resource Room teacher from his grade school, her husband and sister. We watched as the choir entered the auditorium in their robes holding their candles. There was Rojo, the one darkened candle, but he was holding it and he managed to get himself into position on the risers. Maybe it would be harder to see if he was singing or not, if his candle wasn’t going, I hoped.
Songs one and two came and went, his mouth did not open once.
Choir took a break and the kids learning guitar had a turn. Choir came back out, minus the robes, minus the candles, plus gloves, scarves and the occasional Santa hat. He wore his on his head despite the fact I could tell from my far away seat, was bugging him to death. Still. His head tipped awkwardly in attempt to offset the Santa hat annoyance, I stared at his mouth for four more songs. The next to the last song I saw it. The grandparents saw it. The father, aunt, sister, past teacher and friends say it. For part of one song, he sang. He held his arms awkwardly (everyone else had theirs down at their sides), got up all his gumption, opened up his mouth and let out a few words.
The last song involved not only singing, but swaying left to right WHILE singing. My boy swayed. It was awkward and not in tempo, but he swayed. For the most part, when the choir went left, he went left. When the choir went right, he went right.
My boy sang and swayed, sang and swayed, sang and swayed.
Another Christmas miracle.