Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Why and Wherefore of Adoption

I'm engaging in nostalgia this week as I wander around Interlochen Arts Camp and observe young artists developing and honing their skills and their passions.

And, of course, as I write that I have to look up the definition of "nostalgia":

a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time:

My nostalgia is not for what was but for what might have been. It's not for the happiness of a former time, but rather from actions that might have allowed happiness in a former time.

I fantasize about having been adopted by a family who was cultured and musical. I have often said that I was lucky to have been adopted by a family that recognized my talents early in life. But they didn't know how to best nurture those talents. (And I also acknowledge that there is more to nurturing talents than just lessons and training. There's emotional nurturing, also.)

Sometimes, in pondering "life" and "how did I get here", one thinks about those notions of having a life after a life. I'm not saying I believe in the concept of reincarnation. I truly don't know what I believe. But I hear the stories of there being legions of spirits flying around who need to come back to earth to complete their mission. Or something like that. And I wonder why I was chosen for this particular family. If I was, indeed, chosen. For this family.

And as I ponder "why didn't I have a different family," I have to stop and say—almost aloud in my head—It's Not All About You!!

Maybe the fates or the universe or God or whatever chose not that family for me, but me for that family. Or for that man, that wonderful, nurturing daddy, who had a marriage he felt trapped in. He loved me to his core, and he nurtured me as no one else did. He gave me a sense of being loved, wanted, and valuable. Where my mother taught me that I was dumb, ugly and incompetent, he taught me that—at least in his eyes—I was cherished and precious.

And what did I give him? I have no idea. He was not a man to share his feelings. But I'm sure having me mirror his feelings right back to him was significant in his life.

So what if I didn't get a sound footing that put me in a career path the end of which would bring me retrospective joy. I made it through. I accomplished not giving up. I have good kids and grandkids that I'm able to encourage and nurture and—hopefully—guide.

And I was loved, without equal, by Daddy. The most important man in my life.

Maybe he was the why I was adopted by this family.

And that's good enough.

Photos: At top, an Interlochen practice room where a high school string bass player works on his repertoire. Bottom, panorama of Green Lake with oncoming storm whipping up the waves.

Sound the Call to Dear Old Interlochen

There are few places in the world that bring tears to my eyes just by walking on their hallowed ground. One of these is Gloucester, Massachusetts, where 300+ years of my ancestors walked and fished and built homes for their fellowmen. Another is Arlington National Cemetery, where we commemorate so many Americans who gave their lives for this country. The one I'm experiencing this week is Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan.

As I walk around this hallowed campus, I listen to music emanating from every building. The music fills my soul. [I acknowledge that other art forms are similarly nurtured here, but my life is music–that is my focus when I'm here.]

My younger son came here for the first time in 1989, having just turned 14. He had challenges at home after his father's and my divorce eight years earlier. He was tied at the heart to me, but we were constrained to ten weeks together each summer plus a few holidays. His father's way of life wasn't what he would choose, and his greatest advocate lived 1,400 miles away. I sacrificed a significant portion of one of my summers with him to give him the Interlochen experience.

Having spent a year or two as a percussionist in his junior high school band, he sent in his audition tape and applied for Intermediate Band. At that time in his life, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would reply–with a swagger–I'm gonna be a drummer in a rock band.

Shortly after his application was processed, he received a telephone call asking if he would consider being in the Intermediate Concert Orchestra and Intermediate Symphony Orchestra rather than the band (two ensembles instead of one). He graciously agreed.

He had been exposed to classical music at home before reaching Interlochen, but there was no love affair. Once he began daily rehearsals of classical music and began studying the scores, the love affair was fast and deep.

And now, 25 years later, after my son spent three years at Interlochen as a camper, several years as camp staff, and three years of high school at Interlochen Arts Academy, I am back at this magical place. I walk. I listen. I watch. I sit by the lake and feel the breezes and ponder the emotions roiling within me.

My son is now a computer professional. He studies search engine optimization with the same fervor he used to study Tchaikovsky. But he has not lost one gram of his love for Tchaikovsky, or Prokofiev, or Brahms, or any of their composer brothers.

And he has not lost his love for Interlochen.

Nor have I lost my love and gratitude for all that Interlochen gave him and, through him, me.

And so we pile ourselves, along with his two pre-teen children, in his car and trek to northern Michigan. We walk around, watch, and listen. And I cross my fingers that a bit of Interlochen love will rub off on my grandchildren.

Here's hoping I'll be back here next year, observing their classes and performances.