“I want my parents to see Billy Elliot.” The boy and I were discussing Marco Polo and history of Europe in the 1200s, looking at sources from his textbook and encyclopedias. The remark seemed out of context, but whatever the connection or association, I was curious to know more. The boy’s eyes rested on me. Serious. This was no fly-by thought.
“Oh?” I commented, “I heard good things about it. What about it do you want them to see?”
He paused. Fiddled with his pen, checked the time. “I’m not sure,” he mumbled, fiddled more. “Actually …” he looked up, “I want to play the cello.”
The boy has been taking guitar lessons this past year. An athletic guy, his parents thought he was better suited for sports, which he is indeed very good at and loves doing. They were not against the guitar lessons, though they admitted hoping that those were only a passing internet music-video inspired fad.
I just listened. There was more there. I was sure.
“I like playing guitar, but I really love cello. Only thing is .., it’s for like, classic music …” his eyes met mine and then he looked away, stared at his lap. “For orchestra and stuff, you know … nerd stuff.”
“Hmm,” I mused. “People use cellos in other kinds of music, but I get what you’re saying, even though I never thought of cello players as nerds.”
He blushed. “I don’t think they are. I think its beautiful music …” his blush deepened. “I don’t want my dad to think I’m a nerd or like … soft.”
My impression of the father was of a caring, all American, be-my-boy’s-best-buddy kind of dad. They often went to sports events together, traveled to see their favorite teams, bonded over tailgate parties. The boy loved it. And had other interests now, too …
“So … Billy Elliot …” I noted gently.
“Yeah … so they understand I want this, even if it’s kind of different. Is it kind of different?” he looked up, hopeful for denial.
“Personally, I don’t think so. I think music is a lot like a sport–you have to practice, you have to keep at it, you have to love it to do it, and it can also be very satisfying. It is even often kind of a team sport, with players needing to coordinate and work together …”
He gave me the almost-teenage lopsided grin that tells adults that they were doing an okay job in cheering up but their game was up and the comparison was barely passing. “Try telling that to my dad …” he chuckled, not quite mirthfully. He sighed. “My guitar teacher said I have good finger skills,” his voice was hesitant but a warble of pride was evident. “He let me try a cello that he plays sometimes. It felt so right …”
His whole face lit up when he said that.
“So … I want my parents to see Billy Elliot. I told my grandmother. She said she’d get them tickets … for next week.” He pushed on then, his speech suddenly urgent, rapid, “you see, there’s this summer camp, and it is for music … and I can do cello there. Not all summer, just three weeks … I can still go to the other camp, because that one’s only through July … and the music camp is in August … so I could still do both …”
“… they still have openings–my grandma checked–but we have to register, like, now … so … I want them to see Billy Elliot.” He chuckled, a bit tensely, “I’m thinking, it is a lot less nerdy than dancing … so maybe my dad will be, like, relieved that it’s ‘only’ the cello … My grandma said she’ll back me up …”
“I will, too,” I grinned. “Take the leap. Go for it. Try it out. If this is what you really love, then it is wonderful to find it. And if not, then you will still have tried something new that felt worth exploring.”
“Exploring … right,” he grinned. “Back to Marco Polo, huh?”