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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times


Deja Vu Story

In the back corner, a young girl rosins her bow and stares at the violin, shiny and smooth like a chunk of amber. Her parents stand behind her, they say things but she ignores them. She begins playing her piece to warm up, but her parents stop her and scold her for playing “too slow” or “out of tune.” She looks terrified. 

I’m standing in a lesson, maybe age 10. My teacher is my father, and he isn’t impressed with what he’s seeing: the fact that I’m struggling. 

The young girl turns around and looks at her parents. I notice her hair is in two tight braids that fall just below her shoulder blade. At this point, she’s stopped playing and is waving her arms around like she’s upset. Her mother sternly takes the bow from her hand and points to a chair on the other side of the room. The girl walks across the floor. I feel sick. 

“It’s been three days,” he says, tone getting more and more strained. “You have a recital next weekend and you have yet to practice this? What could possibly be more important than getting a good score?” He covers his face in his hands. I start to feel a tremendous amount of guilt, as I take my violin into playing position, and start to play. 

“No,” he says in an agitated tone. “Forget it. Clearly you aren’t made to do this.” He stands up and walks out of the room, leaving me to my own devices. 

Telling myself to focus, I let my eyes wander over to the little girl. She’s calmed down now, face no longer red like cherries, hair meticulously back in place. But she sits in the chair, ignoring her parents. It makes me wonder why I still played violin after all the years of pressure, the need to do well “or else.” Something tells me she feels the same way. 

I stand frozen on stage, the pianist behind me. In the audience, my mother and older sister record the recital on a video camera. My father is not with them. I know he stayed home. As I start to play, an immense feeling of guilt flows with my notes. I’ve let him down. 

I set down my instrument and quickly glance at the clock. There’s still 20 minutes before I go on, so I unwrap a granola bar with no intention of eating it. In my peripheral vision, a woman walks into the cafeteria, calls someone’s name, and the little girl gets up. She slowly walks over to her violin. Picking it up she shoots a look back at me and I give her a sympathetic smile; I know the feeling all too well. Her parents follow, saying something to her but she doesn’t listen. The door slams, echoing a loud metallic boom that makes us musicians wince. A young man yells “that’s an F!” and his friends applaud him. I wonder how she will do, and I rosin my bow one last time. 

“Simply lovely,” my mother says as she wraps me in a side hug. My older sister hands me a bouquet of flowers. The guilt follows me, even on the ride home. When I get inside, my father doesn’t speak a word to me. My mother shows him the video, and he shakes his head the whole time. 

“If you want to be the best,” he says, voice thick with condescension, “you’d better actually try putting in effort.” From then on, he stopped teaching me. And I started getting better; but never good enough for him. No matter how well I did, it would never be good enough.

“Loren Mills?” The voice catches me off guard. A woman stands in the doorway holding a clipboard. I sigh, and collect my things. 

“Here,” I say and walk towards her. The young girl walks past, and smiles at me. I smile at her, even though inside, everything is in attack mode. Even after so many rehearsals and 12 years of playing, I never went numb when it came to performing. 

I grab my car keys and get ready to step out the door. 

“I’m leaving!” I yell. My father walks in, cup of coffee in hand. He looks at me coldly, and his shoulders drop. 

“Don’t disappoint me,” he says in a monotone voice. But I already have. I didn’t get into Juilliard, and I will never be as good as he once was. It doesn’t matter. He will never see this recital. 

One last sigh. I close my eyes and walk into the judging room. Smiling to the judges who wish me good luck and good morning, I open my binder and bring my violin to my shoulder. The piano begins. 

“Simply lovely,” my mother’s words float in my head, blocking out any fear I felt before.

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