"It's your birthday today," says my mother. "You're all of five years old. How about that?" I shrug. I know what Mummy has waiting for me in the living room, and I don't want it. I'd rather have a doll or a tricycle.
"A violin?" I ask.
"A violin," answers Mummy. "I will never be a great violinist because I'm too old," she says. "My fingers aren't nimble. I'm an old lady—42. My technique can never be good enough, no matter how much I practice and study. But you, my precious. You have what it takes to become a great violinist. You're musical. I hear when you sing, and play piano."
"Uh huh," I say.
"This gift will last a lifetime. You'll never grow tired of it. Why? Because through music one always discovers new things about oneself."
I look down at my feet and wiggle my toes. The end of freedom, I think to myself. I've been told violinists must practice for many hours daily. I prefer the sandbox.
"Every day we'll work together. We'll play together. We'll make bee-eautiful music together."
My heart sinks. If I say no, Mummy will be disappointed. If I agree, I'm done for. Mummy loses track of time. I just know the practicing will take over our lives.
"Ok," I say finally. "But, Mummy, can we start tomorrow?"
"Oh, but let's just hear the violin. Come, I'll show it to you." She's smiling. Her face is flushed with insurmountable joy. Music. This she loves more than anything.
She grabs my hand and ushers me into the living room. There, on top of the baby grand piano, a little violin rests in its case.
"Don't be afraid to touch," my mother tells me. "Try."
She lifts the reddish colored instrument from its leather case and places it under my chin. It smells of old wood.
I nod with the violin. It feels awkward. I have to crane my neck and scoop my arm underneath the violin's belly.
"Now for the bow."
Hm. A stick, I think. That might be fun. I wonder if it could be used for swatting.
She picks up her own violin. "I'll play, then you play."
My mother readies her violin, an old Italian, and croaks out a baffling sound. "Shucks," she says putting the violin down for a moment. " I wish I could do what you're going to be able to do, eventually. If only my parents had given me lessons when I was your age. But they didn't know anything about Art."
I smile. I don't want to upset Mummy. How am I going to like this thing that gets in the way of playtime?
"Let's play a game," Mummy says. "A violin game."
I wait for the rules of Mummy's violin game.
"Here's how it goes," she says, taking coins from her piggy bank and placing them on the lid of the piano. "I play a wrong note. I pay you. You play a wrong note. You pay me. Let's see who earns the most money."
Well, I think. Maybe this could work. After all, her violin playing stinks.