As for the other two, I taught myself how to play guitar with a book full of Janis Ian sheet music and my 4th grade music teacher realized one day that I could just play piano. He taught me basic notes and chords and sent me home, and my mother handed me the sheet music to The Incredible Hulk and a dry erase marker for the piano keys and told me to have at it. A year later, I could really play the piano. It's the ugliest thing in the world, watching me hammer away on the keys, but it sounds right and hell, I'm sure that Beethoven looked like an asshole when he played, too, but no one's smacking him down for form today, now are they?
I am no Beethoven. I am no Elmo on a piano, but if I wanted to be, I probably could rock that shit.
For a while, I wanted to be. We had two player pianos in our house, side by side in our tiny living room, donated to us by our church in what I can only guess was a misguided attempt at keeping our little fingers busy with anything that didn't involve our naughty places. I used to BEG my mother for lessons, but she refused on the grounds that we couldn't afford it, which was probably true seeings how we only ate a few times a week, and no amount of the Rainbow Connection and church hymns filling the air would also fill our tummies, but it didn't make me want them any less. I was very understanding of the whole situation, though. I'd sit while my bat-shit crazy grandmother who thought she could channel George Washington and make the dog levitate tried to teach me how to play the score from Oklahoma with her squeaky little voice that wasn't completely unlike that shrimp from Poltergeist's demon voice. I'd hammer out Suicide is Painless, which maybe wasn't exactly the smartest sheet music to hand a suicidal pre-teen in hindsight, but bygones, until I got it right, and I still fall asleep with Ted Cassidy's voice in my head, telling me about science gone awry and Dr David Banner's struggles with elastic waist bands, muscle shirts and finding a nice shade of lipstick to compliment his earthy skin tone. Or something like that.
And then one day, after spending the better part of a year teaching my little brother to play the Pink Panther theme, my mother announced that she was getting him piano lessons because he was clearly gifted and deserved the extra help.
Cue head explosion.
I swore, SWORE, that no matter what my kids wanted to be in life, I'd make it happen. If they dreamed of being a world-class marathon runner, I'd put down the cigarettes and strap on the Nike's and train with them. If they wanted to be carpenters, I'd hand them a hammer. And a bandaid. If they wanted to be starving musicians, I'd buy them their first Les Paul.
Of COURSE I ended up with the kid who's only goal in life is to beat every level of Guitar Hero and then become, not just a professional, but a sponsored skateboarder. I have a really hard time asking my husband for $8 when I need milk and bread, but I'm supposed to figure out how to get Element to pay my kid to skate? Christ on a goddamn cracker, yo.
The boy is dead serious. He will skate for someone, and well, and he's not going to stop until this happens for him. Or he breaks his legs. Or he starves to death under a half pipe. Or he falls over backwards at the skatepark and hits his head so hard he cracked his Bell helmet all the way up the back. Oh, wait, that already happened, and it really didn't stop him. It did stop any number of parts on me, however, but I think I've started breathing again and I seem to have a pulse, so I think I'll recover. He thinks it's pretty cool. Bastard. Bastard who now wears his helmet everywhere he goes, though, so I win.
Of course, I have these dreams of my boys winning Pulitzers and accepting Nobel prizes and graduating from Ivy League colleges but maybe that's not in their cards. Do I want my kid to put everything he has behind skateboarding? Honestly, a little. Skateboarding is awesome. But there's that grown-up in me that wants to tell him to have a "fall back" career, some "real" skill, something "substantial" to base his life's dreams on. Because I didn't even go to college and it's taken me 34 years to even find a job that doesn't require an apron. And if I want anything in this world, it's for my children to know more than I did, to live better than I ever could have.
But my baby wants to skateboard, and I can't deny that. I mean, look at that shit. It's poetry.
God shield I should disturb devotion. So tomorrow, I'm packing these boys up and, under the guise of testing out the new Tony Hawk video game Ride, I'm lugging them down to San Diego to spend a weekend with His Holiness himself, Mr Tony Fucking Hawk. Because maybe I'd also like him to have a law degree, but I'd really much rather watch him have his dreams come true. And of all the things that matter to me, the fact that my kid knows I support him, in whatever, is the most important thing to me in this whole world.
Besides getting to meet Tony Hawk, of course. I'm kind of flipping out about that one.