Sunday, January 29, 2012

Where Do We Put all the Flowers?
The All South Jersey Chorus Concert

We rode home in the car on Sunday evening in exhausted silence, my husband Bob, daughter Melissa and me.  The weekend had been a whirlwind.  A date we had circled on our calendar weeks ago, when Melissa had discovered, to her delight, that of the more than 1,000 students who auditioned, she had been accepted into the prestigious All South Jersey Junior High School Chorus.

Music is Melissa’s passion, and she has embraced it nearly every day of her middle school tenure.  Last year, as a 7th grader, she excitedly asked me to sign a form giving her permission to audition for the All South Jersey Chorus.  I eagerly put pen to paper and offered up my John Hancock, allowing her to stay after school several days a week to practice, and promising to transport her early one November Saturday to a location an hour away so she could show the judges everything she had.

When the audition list came out, we scanned each and every name with care, finally having to admit Melissa’s name could not be found.  However, she soon learned her best friend had been accepted.  Putting her own disappointment aside, she called and congratulated her, and with all of the sincerity a 13 year old girl can muster, wished her well.

I even took Melissa to attend the concert so she could be there in person for her best friend, even though she so wanted to be up on that stage too.

In 8th grade, the tables turned.  Both Melissa and her best friend auditioned again along with the best, and most incredibly talented junior high students representing dozens of schools in southern New Jersey.  This time, we jumped for joy when Melissa’s name showed up on the list.  However, her spirits were somewhat dampened when her best friend’s name did not.   She so hoped they could travel this journey together.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

The first rehearsal brought together nearly 400 junior and senior high students, filled with extraordinary talent and a burning desire to prove themselves.  Within a few weeks time, these teenagers, who had never sang together before, evolved into a chorus that sounded as perfect, eloquent and beautiful as any professional group that had been singing together for years.

The All South Jersey Chorus charmed audiences for two shows, one on a Saturday evening, the other on a Sunday afternoon.  We cheered as Melissa took to the stage for the first half of the show, which featured the junior high chorus.  After a brief intermission, the junior high returned back stage and the senior high chorus took its place. 

I carefully studied my daughter’s expression, along with the faces of the boys and girls who shared the spotlight with her.  Their voices created the melodies, yet the music came from their hearts.  They embraced their performance with joy and honor, fully appreciating this precious moment in time when thoughts of upcoming tests, unfinished home work, clothes, hair, and all of the typical teen worries were kept temporarily at bay.   

On Monday, life would return to normal, and perhaps that is what filled our minds during the silent drive home.  Melissa’s sister Jessica, with pink roses in hand, had traveled from Washington DC to see the performance on Saturday, while grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends all engulfed her with flower bouquets after the show on Sunday.  Her best friend, despite her disappointment at not being accepted this year, had promised to come to the show, only to be sidetracked at the last minute with other plans.

The car pulled into the driveway, and we gathered our belongings, stepped into the cold and walked the short path to the front door.  There, sitting gracefully on the porch, sat yet another bouquet of flowers.  Although Melissa’s best friend had been unable to attend the show, her thoughts had been with her all day, enough to encourage her mother to go to the store, purchase the bouquet, drive to our house, and carefully ensure they would greet Melissa with the heartfelt message that told her how much she cared.

Perhaps of everything that I witnessed during this extraordinary weekend, the beautiful bouquets of flowers touched me the most.  For each petal represented the love of family and friends, who, whether there in person or not, expressed their love and support for my daughter, a proud member of the 2012 All South Jersey Junior High School Chorus.