The checkmarks

That last post (specifically the part about sitting through years and years of school concerts, which--I should add--I really do mostly love) stirred my memory of a funny Sarah Vowell piece about lessons she learned through band and music in junior high.  I went and looked it up and, sure enough, I think her fourth lesson especially applies here:

Tuba player from Butte Montana,  via

Tuba player from Butte Montana, via

"Lesson number four, when doves cry. From the time I was 12 until I finished high school at 18, my poor parents' calendar was blackened by an ambitious roster of concerts and recitals averaging at least one per month. They were always so gushy in their support it never dawned on me that they might have preferred to avoid junior high school gymnasium performances of the theme from Rocky. They acted as though their world revolved around my sister and me, and that's what we believed.

"But I remember one night after an eighth grade band concert, I caught a glimpse of pencil marks on my father's rolled up program. He told me that he checked each movement of each piece off as they ended.


"Obviously because he was counting the seconds until he could go home. And at the time, I took it badly. I was offended that he had so little regard for the seriousness of our interpretation of "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?" But now I see those pathetic little check marks as heart-shaped symbols of his love. Everyone says that love requires the utmost honesty, but that's not entirely true. Once I knew that my father was suffering for my sake, really suffering, I learned that love, especially the parental kind, requires the heartwarming sacrifice that can only accompany fake enthusiasm.

- from This American Life, episode 104. Listen here. Transcript here.