Two musicians meet and fall in love. They don’t speak the same language but they “speak music,” so early conversations take place through instruments, jamming, laughing, accenting each other’s rhythms, and harmonizing with each other’s melodies.
Their love grows, and so does the woman’s Mandarin (as opposed to the man’s English). They get married and settle in Beijing, the city in which they met.
Two years later, they have a daughter whom they name “Echo” as an echo of their love, an extension of their original musical conversation.
With Echo’s arrival, the harmonious duo suddenly becomes a trio, which results in some transitional cacophony. Specifically, a spontaneous guest player (a.k.a. mother-in-law) also comes onstage to support the family song.
Her instruments are childcare and the luxury of time – two things that musicians with rehearsals and performance schedules have in short supply. Her role quickly becomes essential. The audience applauds and everyone onstage smiles; they know a good thing when they hear it.
When Echo is nearly 2, a second child arrives. This one, born in Canada, is a boy named Topaz (“Paz” for short) who is the family’s “precious yellow jade,” transforming the band into a four-piece.
Guest player (MIL) is waiting in the wings in China, anxious to meet him, but they will spend Paz’ first two months warmly tucked away in Canada’s winter embrace. Rehearsing with the expanded lineup takes finesse and gentle coaxing, especially for the little Echo in the group.
Just like a band, a family must go through a transition with every new member. Room must be made in the song arrangements to accommodate the new player, who brings a new instrument, additional melody lines, and exciting new rhythms.
Meeting the needs of a new member must never be done at the expense of existing players, however. It’s the striking of a new balance against the arrival of a new sonic layer – a process.
As the mother, I am the initial welcoming committee. I provide sustenance for our new member and, while breastfeeding takes up much of my time, I must also be conscious of Echo’s needs for her mom’s cuddles and kisses.
Daddy is the backup; when Mommy is busy with the newest member, he must give increased attention to the third. It’s a call and response, like a bassline leading into a drum fill. Slowly we’ll find that the song has become richer, its tonal colors painting a new family portrait.
Soon, back in Beijing, our famous guest player’s (MIL’s) open arms will bring our song back onto the stage of our daily lives. Spring will unfold, alive with inherent creativity and potential.
A family and a band have more similarities than differences. Both require creativity, time, focus, devotion, loyalty and, most of all, patience. Love between the members is often unspoken, but assumed. We must work together to learn each other’s ways, to communicate, to help each other develop.
As time passes, what we create can be pure beauty – a performance of life unfolding for a family, a performance of sound woven into composition by a band. The latter is via musical instruments in the arms of talent; the former is via guidance in the arms of love.
Both bring song. Ours has risen. We may be within the music, but we mustn’t forget to listen.
Illustration by Sunzheng
This article originally appeared on p49 of the beijingkids February 2014 issue.
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