Older Son plays his song at a church flower festival this morning. Browsers and moochers mill around him like he’s just another ornament, while family and friends hang on his every note.
I have heard this song rehearsed for what seems like months now: belted out with style when the voice was good and dragged out like a cat from the fireside on those nights when his voice was ready for bed some time before the rest of him. I’ve heard boy and guitar examine the tune from all angles, most of them simply because they happened to be there.
All my pride in this self-taught, confident musician doesn’t mean there weren’t days when I’d have paid him money just to sing something else.
And yet this morning, I’m struck by how polished it sounds, as if I’d become blind to the fact that all those ragged practices might one day unite in a seamless whole.
Writers are lucky. Our rehearsals are secret affairs. The words appear and are rearranged silently and as long as we shoo away the over-the-shoulder audience, no-one beyond a few feet of us is any the wiser as to the almighty mess from which we fashion something presentable.
The musician without access to sound-proofing never knows this luxury. His creative gestation period is an unavoidable spectator sport from the moment the Muse starts kicking. Which is why, when near-perfection finally dusts itself down and emerges from the rubble, he astounds us all the more.
And that’s the trade-off.