I walked into Haley's choir concert late on Wednesday night. Just a few minutes, and late because I'd been to Nathan's choir concert at his junior high right before. The first choir (not Haley's) was singing Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" and I found myself crying before I could even find a seat.
Back in the spring before she started junior high, Haley had to choose whether she'd learn an instrument or singing in the choir for her music option in seventh grade. She wanted to maybe play the flute or the violin, but my gut told me something different. Even though she didn't seem like a particularly strong singer, my gut new she needed to take choir. So I listened to my gut and I insisted she chose choir, even though she was mad at me.
She didn't love it at first. But her junior high (the same one Nathan and Jake go to now) has an amazing choir teacher. She encourages and bolsters and supports. She takes those young people and teaches them how to read music and how to use their voices. There's something powerful in that, I think—in learning to use your voice. It becomes more than just singing. If you know you have a voice then you also start to know you can say what you think.
What I didn't expect from that gut feeling was how Haley would blossom in choir. She discovered that she has a beautiful singing voice. Who knew? She didn't get that from me! The last time I sang in a choir I was in fifth grade and my friend Brittney asked me not to stand by her when we sang because the horribleness of my voice knocked her off her own tune. I mouthed the songs for the rest of the year. Don't get me wrong: I love to sing. If I am in the house or the car by myself, I often have music on and I'm singing along. But I keep the music loud to drown out how terrible my voice is.
But Haley? Her voice is strong. It's strong and confident and lovely. And choir, despite her initial reluctance, became her thing. She earned solos and went to choir festivals and never missed a concert. She tried out for and got into Bella Voce in ninth grade, and when she got to high school (ours is 10-12 grades here), she found another accomplished and amazing choir teacher.
There were some struggles, especially at the end of tenth grade when she didn't make it into the A Capella choir. (This is an enormous choir class; I think there are about 100 kids in it, and they sing the more technically difficult songs.) I didn't understand why and came this close to calling the teacher to protest. But I listened to my gut again, which said that the Con Brio choir she was in would be the right place for her that year. And it was. She learned to accept a loss without making others feel guilty for their accomplishments. In the smaller choir, she shined. She became a leader. And I know, listening to my gut again, that she learned in Con Brio what she needed to know to earn a spot in Chamber choir (you know, the exclusive one that does all the coolest stuff) for her senior year.
So much knowledge and experience over the past six years. No wonder I started crying at the concert, because it wasn't just her last concert. It was my last concert to listen to. No one believes me, but I swear: I can always hear Haley's voice in the choir. Not because she overpowers anyone else. It's subtle. But I can still hear her in the weaving of voices. I have loved coming to listen to her sing. It has been one of my favorite parts of her adolescence: her voice. And while this could be a story about moms listening to their guts, what it's really about for me is a person finding her way. Finding the thing that gives her expression, finding the thing that helps her be unique even within a crowd.
I will miss that beauty.