It is opening night. From what I am told, every seat is filled. I glance at the clock on my dressing room wall. I have around twenty minutes until I go on. I am nervous. Nervous and worried that I might fail, that I'll let her down. There are those who whisper that I will falter, that I won't be able to pull it off. When that happens, I just think of her. I think of my mother.
My mother was astounding. She had beauty, kindness, intelligence, and talent. But above all, she had passion. Passion for me, passion for life, passion for herself, and passion for her art. She was a violinist. Young, and new to the art form, but still a violinist. I loved watching her practice, seeing the familiar routines that she went through before playing. She would clean her violin before anything else. Taking a small, white cloth and carefully wiping down the bow stick gracefully.
After that, she would pour some alcohol into a small container and, with an old toothbrush, would run the bristles along the bow hair, gently washing away any dirt or oils. Then she would hang it to dry, and while we waited, we would share in conversations. Sometimes deep, sometimes funny, sometimes completely useless. However the conversation turned out, it would always be cherished.
Once the bow hair was dry, and my mother had attached it back to the bow, she would finally begin practicing. This is the part that I really enjoyed. I would lay on the ground, my hands propping up my head while I watched her. She would face me, but would have the music stand in front of her. Sometimes she would squint her eyes, a sign that she had hit the wrong note. Other times, she would smile broadly when she knew she had gotten the song right. All those memories were wonderful, but my favorite, my absolute favorite was when she had memorized the notes.
My mother would push her music stand away, and would close her eyes. It was then that the magic happened. She would play and play, and I would watch as she got caught up in her task. Her hair would fly wildly about her, and sometimes, but only sometimes, she would twirl around while playing. She would know she got it right, not by the sound of the music, but by the motions of her hands. The sound of the music was never an issue with my mother. She was deaf. It was, however, an issue with my father.
I remember, on more than one occasion, him storming through the door, signing about what a nuisance the music was, how terrible it sounded, and how utterly horrid my mother was. She would always look at me, worried for me and my perception of my father. But he wouldn't quit. He would step in front of her, catching her gaze once more. He'd shove his hands in her face, signing about how stupid and bothersome my mother was. I'd scream, but he'd only use that as a sign that my mother's violin playing was hurting me. Eventually, my mother would have enough, and would sign back. She'd tell him that he was wrong, that music could never be terrible, and that he was the horrid one. He would stop signing and begin to shout, forgetting that my mother could read lips.
The words that left his mouth...the things he said...that's what hurt my mother the most. It was a symbol of the fact that she would never be able to speak clearly, and would never be able to hear the music she played. My father would eventually leave us. Under the light of the stars, he would call a taxi and would be gone forever. But not before one last act of cruelty. He smashed my mother's violin.
Times were much harder back then, and new violins didn't come cheap. Even used ones were too expensive for my mother and I, especially now that our source of income had fled in a taxi. My mother and I would eventually get jobs as seamstresses. Every cent was used, and still there was not enough. I blamed myself. If there was one less mouth to feed, my mother would have gotten by easily. But she told me otherwise. She told me that if I were not there with her, that she would be lost in the world.
It didn't help our financial situation when my mother decided to save some money for me to go to school. I begged her not to, told her that we needed it and that I wasn't worth it. She would cup my face in her hands and promise me that I would lead a better life than she had. I would cry, and tell her that I only wanted to be with her, even if our lives were sad. She would hold me until the tears stopped.
Our lives were not meant to be dark forever, though. One day, I would meet a young man. A man about my age. A man who loved music, and who was the heir to his father's great fortune. A man who, by some stroke of luck, spoke sign language. We became friends, despite the difference in our social would later buy my mother a new violin, a gift that would make her cry.
Once he heard her play, he was amazed. He insisted that she play for his father, the owner of a musical foundation. She signed that she couldn't possibly be that good, and he told her that she was better. So, she followed my friend's instructions, and played for his father. The man was blown away. He immediately signed her with a talent agent, and booked her first formal appearance at Carnegie Hall.
It all seemed to happen so fast for my mother and myself. But it happened. People were skeptical at first, but my new friend would remind them that Beethoven was deaf, also. Tickets began to sell, and soon it was opening night. I sat in my mother's dressing room, praying with her. Soon, a stage manager came in and informed my mother that it was time for her to perform.
I assume she was nervous. I know I was. I watched from the wings, waiting. As she walked out, I took a glance at the crowd. No one clapped. It seemed to be silent. My mother made her way to the center of the stage, where a music stand sat with a familiar piece of music. It was then, after so many years, that the magic happened once more. My mother pushed the stand to the side, closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and began to play. She moved around fluidly, her long hair flying about her. She twirled around, just like she used to.
I don't know how long she played. Part of me feels like it was only a moment, and another part feels like it was an eternity. Either way, when she stopped, her hair in her face, her violin at her side, I looked out onto the crowd. No one moved an inch. And then, they began to applaud. They stood, some of them clearly cheering, some of them weeping. The walls were vibrating from the applause. I watched as roses were tossed onto the stage. My mother bowed. She then looked at me in the wings, tears in her eyes, and smiled. I'll never forget that smile, or the way her face was shining.
I would later marry my friend who saved us. He is a kind, gentle man who loves me dearly. He has inherited his fortune, and I no longer have to work as a seamstress. Though, I do donate money to the worker's unions. But not everything turned out perfectly. My mother died one year ago. She was not ill, she was not hurt. She was old, and it was simply her time to go. I miss my mother, but I know that she is with me. She lives on in my heart, and I will see her again.
It is opening night, and I am nervous. I don't want to let her down. Suddenly, a stage manager comes into my dressing room, alerting me that it is time to go on. I follow her through the halls and into the wings. The announcer on the stage has just walked off. I take a breath, and walk on. I look out into the crowd, and everyone is clapping. I don't hear them, though. I never have. I'm deaf, and I always have been. My husband is sitting in the front row. He smiles and signs that he loves me. I smile in return.
So, here I stand. In the very place that my mother stood all those years ago, holding her violin. Although I can't hear them, I can feel the songs and voices of those who have stood here before me. I can feel my mother, and her final happiness. She never heard her music. I never heard mine. But we feel it, and that is more powerful than anything that could be written on a sheet of music paper. After all, I am my mother's daughter.
I push the music stand away. I close my eyes, and I see my mother's face. I smile, and begin to play.