My mom came to the dress rehearsal for the Messiah concert last weekend. We’d been been practicing for over an hour by the time she arrived and she walked into the church sanctuary just as we were about to start the Hallelujah chorus. She waved excitedly at me while seating herself in a pew, but as soon as she realized what we were playing, she jumped to her feet and stood at full attention for the entire duration of the Hallelujah. (This tradition was begun when the King of England stood the first time he heard it and everyone had to copy him.) As soon as I saw her standing there, in front of the full choir and orchestra, with no one else in the entire sanctuary, a little part of me cringed with embarrassment. I thought, “Oh, Mom, there’s really no need to stand for a rehearsal. Wait till the concert when everyone else is doing it.” But then I realized, she wouldn’t be my mother if she didn’t do things like this!
Mom used to embarrass me tremendously throughout my teenage years because she’s someone who does whatever she likes without giving a hoot about what others might think of her. Over the years, I’ve grown to admire her for that non-conformist quality that she exudes at every step, though I’m still somewhat committed to cultural norms (which isn’t always a bad thing). Mom, on the other hand, always has a story to tell about an experience that she finds hilarious in retrospect, while I listen, cringing at the blatant awkwardness of it.
Take, for example, her memory of one Messiah we attended when I was a kid. She retold the epic story as we sat around eating birthday cake after the concert. “Do you remember, Katherine? It was in Gravenhurst and we’d gone with the whole violin school. I had to go to the bathroom during intermission, but the lineup was so long that the doors had just closed by the time I got back. I peeked through a crack and saw that the music hadn’t started yet, so I gauged the distance to my seat in the front row and figured I could make it in time. So I dashed down the centre aisle at breakneck speed.”
Now, most people would think twice before making an impressive public dash at the start of a classical concert, but not my mother — and, of course, disaster ensued. “Wouldn’t you know, the conductor turned around to bow just as I arrived at the end of the aisle and was about to sneak past to my seat. Much to his surprise, he flung his arms wide, only to discover me right there!” The audience erupted in laughter and Mom continued to her seat, more pleased with her arrival than aware of the ruckus she’d caused. Meanwhile, my twelve-year-old self was dying of utter humiliation.
The flip-side of having such a plucky mom, however, is that she has opened doors of opportunity for me that otherwise may have remained closed because, as a kid, I didn’t have the guts to make it happen. She showed me that it really pays off to be extroverted, or, at minimum, not be scared to ask questions because you never know what the answer will be until you’ve tried. So, once my initial surprise wore off at seeing her standing alone for Hallelujah, I couldn’t help but smile and think how I’m actually quite lucky to have a mom who’s not afraid to stand up like that in front of fifty strangers just because she wants to.