LET INGA TELL YOU:
Friendships can be tested in many ways, but nothing really compares to a 5-year-old with a violin.
A close friend's three boys were good friends with my two, and our families dined together frequently. My friend had always wanted a daughter, and in what I am speculating was the aftermath of an adult-beverage-infused evening (she all but said so), she and her husband decided to go for it. To their delight, nine months later came Minnie.
Let me just say that Minnie is now an adult and a lovely young woman. But 5 was not her best year. Recollecting back on a vacation we took with her family around that time, Olof's and my common memory was wanting to leave Minnie by the side of the road.
It's not at all surprising that a first-ever daughter showing up seven years after three boys would be cherished. But from her older brothers' perspective, the moment Minnie was born, they became chopped liver. If the boys behaved badly, they were sent to their rooms. If Minnie melted down, she had "low glycogen stores." The boys complained that they should be able to have low glycogen stores, too.
It was clear to everyone who knew our friends that the sun rose and set on Minnie's little tushie. When dinner guests came, the boys were relegated to the kitchen but Minnie reigned at the dinner table basking in compulsory adoration. In actuality, it was probably for Minnie's safety that she wasn't deposited in the kitchen with her brothers who in that era lost no opportunity to engage in revenge torment of her out of sight of her parents.
We really liked these long-time friends and we knew that Minnie would get eventually older, assuming her brothers didn't kill her first. So we'd just have to wait it out.
That was until the violin.
Now, one of Minnie's older sibs was a talented violinist. When Minnie was 5, her parents determined on no rational basis whatsoever that that she was the next Jascha Heifetz. Her future at Carnegie Hall was a given. Minnie herself seemed to have no interest in the violin, but knew that producing it would be a phaser lock of attention on her for as long as she held this instrument in her little fingers, sawing back and forth as her mom beamed adoringly.
Mom's rationale for subjecting guests at every opportunity to Minnie and the violin was that it was important for Minnie to learn to perform in front of others. Efforts by all who knew her to explain that one might wait until a child could perform a single line of identifiable music fell on deaf ears.
That Christmas, we were invited to Christmas dinner along with our friends' extended family whom we knew well. These friends were fabulous cooks so dining with them was always a gastronomic treat. We had all barely retired, happily sated, to the open-concept family room after dinner, the folks doing dishes nearby, when Minnie appeared with the violin for a "Christmas concert." The looks of collective horror went unnoticed.
And so Minnie sawed and screeched away. At the end of each alleged piece, we all clapped politely then looked at her parents beseechingly to parole us. But they were awash in Terminal Delusional Besottment. Never one to lose a captive audience, Minnie simpered, "Mommy, can I play one more?" (Sounded like the same cat-being-cruelly-decapitated-with-rusty-cheese-knife tune to us each time.) And mom would smile indulgently, "Well, just one more."
A half-hour later, the audience was starting to get desperate. One by one, they began getting up and wandering back into the dining room on the pretense of going to the rest room. Except, of course, they didn't come back. Finally it was down to Olof and me. We were trading frantic non-verbal communications. Fantasies of creating a garrote with the violin strings were hard to stifle. Finally, I nodded to Olof and he made his escape. When Minnie finished her next "piece," some 40 minutes into this torture, I jumped up and clapped, making a dash for the dining room. If she asked if she could play just one more, I'll never know. I was already gone.
In the dining room, everyone had resumed their dinner places. "Is she done?" whispered Minnie's grandfather hopefully. They were hoping if they whispered, no one would find them. Fortunately, after a very long year of Minnie concerts, even the violin teacher implored Minnie's mom to let her "mature" for a few more years. Seriously, it was one of the happiest days of my life.
Now that Minnie and her brothers are adults, the playing field has leveled and they are all close. As I said, I'm enormously fond of her. And fortunately for my friendship with her mother, Minnie never took up a musical instrument again.
— Inga's lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org