The end of the midnight concerts

I was up late the other night, curled up in my chair with a book. The house was still except for the occasional huff of breath from the dog sprawled at my feet chasing bunnies in his sleep.

Then I heard it. The soft twang of an acoustic guitar. Ah, Matt’s still up and practicing! I got up from my chair and tiptoed to the bottom of the stairs to listen. From that perspective, I could hear my son singing softly as he plucked strings. It sounded like he was working on writing another song.

That’s when it hit me. Hard. I wasn’t going to experience this on a regular basis anymore. Oh. Hey. Wait a minute. I’m not sure I’m ready for this yet. My baby is leaving for tech school in a few days, and even thought he’ll come home now and then, it won’t be the same. He’s moving out. He’s moving on.

When the kids were little, I loved to stand out of sight and listen to their games of make-believe. I’d smile as they used funny voices to articulate whatever their action figure had on its mind or I’d stifle a giggle as the kids figured out rules to a new game they were making up as they played. I’d snicker as the boys complained to each other about living with a sister, or roll my eyes as a little boy ratted out his brother to a sister who was probably rolling her eyes as well.

All of my kids had the ability to sink into their own world as they played, and the creative little minds they possessed turned a couch into a mountain, a bunk bed into an army fort and the sleeping dog into a snoring monster bent on destruction.

Often, my husband and I would sit downstairs watching TV and suddenly look at each other and smile as a ruckus upstairs would break out. I think my favorite times were when we’d hear someone yell, “Quit yelling! Do you want Mom and Dad to come up here?” There would be a mysterious thump every now and then that had our eyebrows raising, and sometimes one of us would get as far as, “What do you suppose…?” before letting the sentence trickle off.

I don’t think the kids ever had any idea about how much we heard over the years. They were upstairs — kid territory — and never seemed to realize that sound could travel downstairs and through heat vents.

Yep, we heard some pretty odd things coming from up there.

When you have a kid who is really into music, you can’t help but get to know some of their favorite songs and artists. You experience the phases. Sitting downstairs and listening to him practice upstairs was something my husband and I smiled over, grimaced over and sighed over. The drums were a bit jarring, and I’m pretty sure his electric guitar really does have an amp that goes to 11, but the acoustic was his normal “learning mode” instrument. Thank goodness.

Every time the kid was attempting something new and got frustrated, we could predict what would happen next — strains of Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl.” It is Matt’s go-to song every time his fingers wouldn’t do what he wanted them to do or he got annoyed.  Eric and I would listen to a chord, some picking, then hear a disjointed twang. It would happen over and over, and we could almost predict the moment Matt would let out a huff of impatience and tumble into the opening bars of Jesse. Just for a few moments, then he’d go back to whatever it was he was trying to master.

It always makes us smile.

Now, sitting at the bottom of the stairs and listening to my youngest child’s voice as he sang along with the music coming from his guitar and I’m sure echoing in his mind, I wanted to wake my husband up and have him join me. I wanted him to experience it one more time. I wanted to share that parental look that’s a sigh, a rolling of the eyes and a smile of pride all at the same time.

But right as I was ready to get up off the bottom step, I heard the chord and the sigh that means, “I’m done and I’m tired.” Yeah, he has one of those, too.  I heard the squeak of his hand on the strings as he picked his guitar up at the neck and set it on its stand. And I knew my late-night concert was over.

I tiptoed off to bed before he could come down and bust me doing the Mommy/spy thing.

I burrowed under the covers in bed, one floor beneath Matt’s bedroom, and listened to him settle in for the night. I mentally counted off the days until he leaves, and sighed. I may have teared up a little.

And just as I started drifting off to sleep, the kid turned the music up on his computer so loud I could feel it thumping in my skull. Again, I mentally counted off the days until he leaves and sighed.

It’s sure going to sound different around here.

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