Earlier this month, Georgette and I attended a recital for our five-year-old granddaughter Kathryn. The recital was at a local church in Peoria and opened with six girls who were all the same age as our granddaughter. The girls played their tiny violins with their teacher leading them. Their performance lasted about three minutes and consisted of playing repetitive music exercises.
Listening to music exercises being played on violins is not particularly exciting, but I can tell you that Georgette and I were thrilled to see our granddaughter perform in public for the first time.
After our granddaughter’s performance, we drove to Bradley University to see our daughter Mary perform in a piano recital. Mary is 20 years old and has been taking piano lessons since she was four. Obviously there was a dramatic difference between the performance of our daughter Mary and the performance of our granddaughter Kathryn.
After Mary’s recital, we had to hustle over to Illinois Central College to get to the recital of our 17-year-old daughter, Christine.
Whew! Three recitals in one evening. I thought life was supposed to slow down when we got older.
Later in the evening when I was getting ready for bed, I started thinking about what it takes to transform a five-year-old preschooler playing musical exercises into a grown college student playing beautiful musical pieces written by some of the greatest composers of all time, such as Mozart, Bach, and Chopin.
What did it take in our situation? In order to explain, I have to go back to when Georgette was pregnant with our first child, Harry. I’ve previously written about how we almost lost Harry during the first few months of Georgette’s pregnancy. Because of complications, Georgette stayed with her family in Peoria while I returned to law school in August 1980. I moved her to St. Louis in early 1981 to live with me. Harry was born on March 27, 1981.
After I moved Georgette to St. Louis, I noticed three things that she was doing to prepare our unborn child for the world. She prayed, sang, and read out loud so Harry could hear her. After he was born, she did the same three things throughout the day. It didn’t matter what she was doing – nursing, cooking, cleaning – she was either praying, singing, or reading out loud. She told me she was doing it because she wanted him to develop a love for God and prayer, a love for music, and a love for reading.
When Harry was four years old, Georgette signed him up for piano lessons. Also at that time we purchased a phonics reading program, and she began teaching him how to read. Of course, during those early years she also taught him how to pray. She followed the same routine for each of our six other children.
We eventually decided to educate our children at home rather than send them to grade school and high school. At one point, Georgette was teaching five children at five different grade levels. She was overwhelmed, and we had some serious discussions about putting one or more of our children in the school system.
We both wanted our children to have a rock-solid foundation in the Catholic faith before exposing them to the world and the pressures in schools. When things got rough, I told Georgette, “Just focus on their faith and their reading. When they get into college, as long as they have the ability to read and comprehend, they can catch up on all their other subjects.”
Despite my opinion that she could simplify the process by focusing on faith and reading, Georgette insisted on continuing with a full curriculum. In addition, she felt it was important to continue to develop our children’s musical talents. She not only continued with music lessons, but she also called local nursing homes and set up times when our children could perform for the residents. It was important to Georgette that our children perform works of mercy, which included visiting and comforting elderly members of our society.
Back to the original question that popped into my mind on the evening of the three recitals: What does it take to transform a five-year-old preschooler playing musical exercises into a grown college student playing beautiful musical pieces written by some of the greatest composers of all time, such as Mozart, Bach, and Chopin?
It took a loving mother who because of her great devotion to her children sacrificed countless hours to see to it that they excelled in music. It wasn’t easy for her. In fact, it was extremely difficult. During the years our children were growing up, I worked a lot of hours, so I wasn’t around to help her out very much.
I sat down and calculated the total number of hours Georgette invested in dropping off our children for their music lessons, assisting them while they practiced, helping them prepare for performances, and attending their performances. I came up with an approximate total of 13,104 hours. I then multiplied the 13,104 hours by $20 per hour (not enough), and the total invested in raising our children to become accomplished musicians came to a grand total of $262,080.
Then I thought, “Uh-oh. If I add that amount to everything else Georgette did for our children, we’re talking about a massive amount of time and money. I’d better pick up another Mother’s Day gift for her, and while I’m at it, maybe I should show a little more appreciation for what she did (and still does) for our children.”
So, as a little sign of my appreciation, I want to take the opportunity to thank the mother of my children for all those years of love and sacrifice. She’s going to be embarrassed that I’ve focused this type of attention on her, but she deserves the recognition.
Thanks, Georgette, for being such a great mother and friend. We’ve been very blessed to have you in our lives. Happy Mother’s Day!