of a Choir Parent
(from the January 1966 Score)
by Willard J. Johnson
There is nothing more forlorn than the couple without a Choir Boy. It breaks your heart to see them stretch out relaxing around swimming pools, sitting suntanned and miserable on the decks of their boats, trotting off on vacations like lost souls. It is an empty life. There’s nothing but more money to spend, more time to enjoy, and very little to worry about.
This poor couple become so selfish and wrapped up in their own affairs that you have to feel sorry for them. They do not fight over conflicts between the choirboy’s schedule and family events such as funerals, weddings or emergency operations. They go along in their dull way, doing what they want, and liking each other. It’s a rather pathetic picture.
Everyone should have a Choir Boy. No one should be allowed to escape the wonderful experience attached to each stage of his development. The anxious moments of the audition, the hopes that he will be accepted, and the fears that he might, and the mixed emotions when you observe Mr. Bragg’s affirmative nod – something akin to hearing a judge say, "$5,000 or 5 years!"
Then comes the next great joy – the choirboy enters into the Advanced Group! He rapidly develops from a little acorn who like music of any type into a real nut who classes a $20.00 volume of Glenn Miller favorites played on a $500.00 Hi-Fi set as being trash and beneath his dignity. The rollicking, merry, carefree voices of younger brothers and sisters joined in family fun and foolishness are stilled while the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach consumes the very atmosphere. The volume of the record player is adjusted to the point that the entire structure of the home vibrates like a harp string and you begin to wish his knowledge of Bach was limited to the bottled kind – beer! Suddenly you realize your choirboy has gone deaf, which is a fact verified by his inattention to all verbal instructions regarding homework and bedtime.
The ultimate plateau of joy is never reached by the dismally vacant household without a choirboy member of the Concert or Tour Group. This home fails to enjoy the constant problems that make for a well-rounded life and an early breakdown; the tender moments of stark hysteria and loving discussions when the report card reveals your child prodigy has been giving you a first class "snow job" concerning his scholastic standings; the close knit family gatherings to determine exactly what emergency measures are necessary in order to salvage his academic future and at least ensure his probable entrance into some mail order Teachers College on a probationary basis.
Such gentle pleasures are supplemented by the excruciating joys of public service – the marvelous opportunities of establishing, in your own little organization, a transportation system – a car pool no less. The emergencies and never-ending crisis of such a car pool broadens and expands a choir parents’ experience in life. Think back to that night of romantic adventure of your wedding anniversary as you were preparing to depart for the club for an evening of dining and dancing, perhaps to rekindle even for a moment the fires of yesteryear – and your budding, handsome choirboy says, "But we have a concert tonight and I told the car pool you would drive!" Suddenly this son you have sired and borne – the new hope for future civilization – takes on all the aspects of a village idiot. These are the times that a man treasures, the poignant memories that are captured forever and held in the heart and the lymph.
There is a terrifying emptiness in the couple without a Choir Boy and they are too comfortable to know it. You only have to look at them to see what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, unworried, and youthful. It isn’t natural; if they had a choirboy, they would look normal like the rest of us – tired, worried, and sagging.
Choirboys are worth it all. Every moment of anxiety, every sacrifice, every complete parental collapse pays off as he reaches a questionable, but early adolescence – the feeling of pride the first time he takes off on tour – the utter shock and panic as you observe the bus departing with your baby boy! What a couple without a Choir Boy would ever share the stark realism of such a drama? Could a woman without a choirboy touch the heroism and strength of your wife as she tries to throw herself in front of the bus? It takes a father of sturdy character to stand by, ready and resolute, to jump after her should her efforts fail. You are positive you will never see him again – and you are right! When he returns he is someone else, something magic has happened! Somehow he is not the same! He no longer eats mashed potatoes with a spoon. He has learned such foreign phrases as "yes, please" and "thank you"! In some mysterious manner he is able to determine, without a mother’s assistance, that the zipper of his trousers belong in the front and that a pair of shoes consists of one right and one left shoe each.
His basic instincts of self-preservation and self-comfort are showing signs of submergence in occasional acts of self-discipline and gentlemanly conduct that, unfortunately, many of us have been too lax to teach by example. His thinking processes are evidencing a content of reserve and analysis in lieu of pure spontaneous reaction; and he exhibits traits of independence and self-confidence that warms your heart. He has tasted sweet success and bitter disappointment without being overly affected by either.
At this point you begin to suspect that your son is being influenced – by what or by whom, you must draw your own conclusion!
Willard J. Johnson
Board of Trustees and Former Choir Parent
© Copyright 2002 George Bragg - Used with permission