The year my 4th child, Jane, was a senior in high school is now somewhat of a blur to me except for the fact that I know she was asserting her independence and I know she was in love. Jane and Stephen were always together. They enjoyed riding in his 1968 cobalt blue Mustang and playing fiercely competitive card games. They never cheated at card games. That would have been an unforgivable sin for a true competitor. They could also be quiet while listening to music, playing guitar, or just talking for hours. They loved the Beatles, walking in the snow, and watching movies. They perhaps spent too many hours playing “World of Warcraft,” but I won’t hold that against them now. Theirs was a deep friendship and an innocently blossoming romance.
Stephen was brilliant in so many subjects, but especially math. He decided that year to learn the “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven even though he had never had piano lessons. He did learn it, by heart. He taught himself music theory and could, by the end of the year, write the harmony (chords) of a Bach chorale. Calculus came fairly easy to him. He also had a wonderful English teacher his senior year who introduced him to the pleasures of writing and reading deeply. He kept a writers notebook even though it was never assigned. He worked a long time to read Les Miserables. And, Stephen kept a secret from me that year.
Part of Jane’s new independence was that she no longer wanted my company at her cello lessons. She had been studying cello since age 5 with the Suzuki method. In that method, mom is expected to come and learn, take notes of the lesson, so that the student would know how and what to practice during the week. We had a few hurdles over the years–you know, the age 12, “WHY DO I HAVE TO PLAY THE CELLO?” or whatever other instrument mom had picked. But around age 15, Jane began to really own her cello, and it became a vehicle for expressing her emotions and her identity.
The secret Stephen kept was revealed at Jane’s Spring Recital. I’ll never forget it. I thought I had still been fairly in touch with her music, but Jane often practiced before I got home from work. When she sat down at the recital to present her piece, I was not prepared for what I heard. Suddenly, before my eyes, my young daughter became a mature musician–one with her cello. She played the 3rd movement of Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in g minor. It is a haunting, lyrical, intensely emotional piece of music. Jane had mastered it. I sat by Stephen as tears rolled down both our faces. She put all her heart and love into that music.
When Stephen died of cancer 3 years later, that music spoke her grief and her love. It will always be Jane’s piece to me.
Here is a link to this gorgeous piece of music: