Requiem for a Dream

The poor kid, I thought to myself, lighting a cigarette. Well, actually she's not so unfortunate. I don't know. This music thing is really confusing me, and lately it has become the main cause of the quarrels at home.

"It's for your own good, sweetie," I tried to comfort my daughter, who was crying in the back seat of the car. "When you grow up you will understand how important it was."

About three years ago, I took out a mortgage and bought a piano. I remember how happy my child was then, her smile in the music store and her shout of triumph when the new toy landed in the living room. About two months ago, I caught her late one night with a box of matches, trying to set fire to it.

"Do you like music?" I asked regularly on the way to the lesson.

"Yes," she replied.

"Do you like your teacher?"

"A lot."

"Please," I said in the tone of a lawyer resting his case, "practice is part of the deal. You can't just go to lessons; you have to practice at home, too. And from a very young age."

"You keep saying from a very young age, from a very young age. I can't take it anymore. You see the world champion in track and field, and you say he started to train in running when he was three," the girl imitates me. "We see a circus and you say the guy started to walk the tightrope when he was four. Enough already, Dad, enough."

"But it's true."

"When did you start writing?"

"Ahhhhh. Look, that has nothing to do with it, writing is different. And anyway, if I had started at four, believe me, I wouldn't have ended up like this. I just don't want you to be like me when you grow up. You can do better. Know what I mean?"

"Fine, okay," she said, knowing from past experiences that this was a losing battle. "So at least change the Bach. I don't like the organ."

"All right," I said, ejecting the CD. "What would you like to hear?"

"Put on Rachmaninoff already. Like you have something else in the car."

I watched the kid drag her legs up the stairs of the conservatory on Emek Refaim Street. An old building, filled with grandeur, in the German Colony. As usual, I waited in the huge yard and thought about the horse-drawn carriages that must have parked here once. Probably the place belonged to a very rich family, or maybe it was a hospital?

The poor kid, I thought to myself, lighting a cigarette. Well, actually she's not so unfortunate. I don't know. This music thing is really confusing me, and lately it has become the main cause of the quarrels at home. Maybe I'm making a big mistake, or maybe the opposite: Maybe I'm doing her a huge favor that she will one day appreciate. A lot of my friends in my student days complained about how their parents made them play an instrument when they were kids. I always felt compassion for them and didn't believe a parent could be so cruel, but when I check today, those complaining friends grew up to be quite successful, and many of them are now making their children play.

In our home I am the only one fighting for the piano. My wife can't understand why I am so stubborn about it and prefers not to get involved at all. "Music is your thing." That's right, it is my thing, and the truth is that I would like our child to do nothing but music. But it's not working out, and I guess I will have to accept the fact that she will soon drop it. But I will fight a little longer. I know how much she loves music and I won't let her give up so fast just out of laziness.

Maybe she is angry at me now, but she doesn't understand what I am trying to do here. She doesn't understand that music is an entry ticket, or maybe it's more accurate to call it an escape ticket. How can I explain that to a seven-year-old girl? What am I supposed to say to her? That I am trying to create the New Arab, who will bring redemption? For me, the New Arab is different: not a muscular type holding a sickle and a rifle, not filled with honor and pride, not someone who wants to be part of a strong, invincible nation. On the contrary: I think that redemption will be brought by someone without honor, stooped, assimilating, lacking national pride, cowardly, meek, cultured, shy. In short, a pianist.

Oh, my little girl, my little girl. I only hope she won't hate me for this. As always, when the cigarette is finished I go inside and put my ear to the door to listen to her playing and to the teacher's instructions. The parents are invited to sit in on the lessons, but the kid is dead set against this and always asks me to wait outside. A smile crosses my lips as I hear words of praise from the teacher: "Very nice. Just so." And my heart skips a beat when I hear "What happened to you today?" or "I thought we figured out the fingering last week?" She had a good lesson this week. I heard it and I was delighted, and a minute before the end I rushed out and again feigned surprise when she emerged.

"Nu," I ask as always. "So how was the lesson?"


"Come here, sweetie," I said and hugged her shoulders. "Let's buy a cake."

Crossing the road, we found ourselves in a magnificent chocolate shop, as befits the residents of the neighborhood.

I stood there with my daughter, who looked calmer now, and let her choose the cake she wanted. She pointed to a round chocolate mousse thing: "I want that."

"Can I have the chocolate mousse, please," I asked the saleswoman, who didn't bother to move from her post behind the counter and replied with the confidence of one who will not budge from her position: "But it costs NIS 150."

Instead of shouting out, I tightened my grip on my daughter's hand and whispered into her ear, "You see? You see why music is important?"