Several weeks ago I attended a performance by my younger son and his guitarist friend at a local folk music center. The two had been toiling in my basement writing and rehearsing songs for weeks; now it was time to dazzle the world with their blues, ballads, and rock and roll.
Having heard fragments of their raw material in preliminary arrangements, I had grown curious to hear the finished product. And so, on concert night I bestirred myself and went early to the folk music center to get a good seat, preferably an aisle seat a few rows back from the stage, a location offering the optimal combination of leg stretch comfort and a clear view of the performers.
I arrived at the little concert hall just as the man acting as stage manager, a gray-haired free spirit about my age (too old to be groovy, too young to give it all up), threw the doors open. A whisper to the ticket girl that my son was playing and she waved me in. I sped up the aisle to the fourth row's outside chair, a chair offering prime leg room and an unobstructed view of the stage and its two padded bar stools, soon to be the perches of the two performers. I sat myself down and looked back at the concert hall filling with students, the guitarist's extended family, and the usual menagerie of old folkies that delight in hearing live music played in an intimate hall.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. The stage manager leaned down and inquired if I was the fiddler's father.
Fiddler's father? The words sounded odd to my ear. Yea, I have lain with a woman and she hath conceived a fiddler. "Yes, I am," I confessed. "I am the fiddler's father."
The stage manager smiled a gracious, free spirited smile. "Come with me, sir. We've got a special seat reserved for you."
There was no way to refuse the unsought and unwanted honor. I followed him to the exposed terrain in front of the stage. Each chair in the front row had a paper sign taped to its seat: "Reserved Seating." I was offered a chair in the center of the row and I took it, expressing as much gratitude as I could muster. Then the stage manager escorted the guitarist's family forward to fill in the chairs around me.
Now it was show time. The stage manager greeted the crowd, said a few words about upcoming events at the folk music center, and then introduced the performers. My son and his friend stepped onto the stage to generous applause. They picked up their instruments and climbed atop the bar stools.
The stage was a foot tall; therefore, my eyes were at the level of my son's shins. He should have worn his dress shoes, I thought, instead of those ratty sneakers.
The situation somehow reminded me of my son's peewee soccer league, years ago, where parents, many of them obnoxious, would scream encouragement or advice from the sidelines. I wondered, will my son feel self-conscious at having me so close? He might fear that I would yell out, "Good harmony, son. You're doing great." Or perhaps warn him, "Don't slouch. Keep your scroll up."
I needn't have worried. My son was oblivious to my presence. Actually, during his most soulful playing, he shut his eyes and appeared to be oblivious to the audience, the concert hall, and possibly even the material world as we know it.
It was a fine concert. You should have been there.