This was not the plan. The plan was to play basketball. He'd always played basketball. And sure, his interest had slightly waned over the years as his peers seemed to grow exponentially taller than he was and the game got increasingly more competitive. But we strongly encouraged him to stick with it. We wanted him to be part of a team. To demonstrate commitment. To show some fortitude. To prove he had perseverance. That is, until three months ago, when our 15-year-old son broke the news to us and his coach that he was quitting basketball. So he could start a band.
It's not that we were disappointed by his declaration as much as surprised. And confused. Primarily because most people who start a band actually play an instrument. Arthur did not. Unless you count the recorder that he learned to play in third grade. Or that week he decided to take up the harmonica. But teenagers don't always think in practical terms. They often leap before they look. They act before they think. So, I decided to play along. "Starting a band sounds awesome," I said, "Are you going to play the tambourine? Perhaps the triangle?" Arthur excitedly responded with, "Nope, I'm going to be the drummer. So can you find me an instructor by next Monday? And can I get a set of drums as an early Chanukah present? And you're right, it's gonna be so awesome." He seemed to have it all worked out.
Within the week, he and his three buddies from the tennis team (so glad he got something out of tennis) had gotten permission to conduct band practice as an official after-school activity. The next thing I knew, we had four teenage boys in our basement four afternoons a week declaring themselves as Chattanooga's hottest new garage band - The Wheels.
The first day, I could hear the beginning stages of "Blitzkrieg Bop" coming through my office floorboards, so I decided to bop downstairs and pay them a visit. Their collective lack of enthusiasm for my presence was nothing compared to Arthur's utter embarrassment when I took out my iPhone to record their first practice. Their urging that I wait a few weeks until they got better was trumped by my insistence that all great bands had to start somewhere and as they improved they would appreciate being able to see where they came from. "Just think," I added. "This will make great b-roll for your documentary one day." That did the trick.
Much to my surprise, they actually sounded pretty decent. The foursome included two fairly seasoned guitarists, a lead singer who had only recently taken up the bass, and then Arthur, who had one drum lesson under his belt and had cobbled together a few sad remnants of an old drum set that belonged to his younger brother. They still managed to pull off a not-so-terrible sounding tribute to The Ramones. As they got to the well-known chorus of "Hey ho, let's go," I couldn't help thinking what a fitting anthem it was for them.
Within a few weeks, Arthur was thrilled to inherit his first cousin's slightly-used drum set, which my sister-in-law was more than thrilled to part with, and I simultaneously inherited the much-coveted position of official band videographer. When the boys summoned me downstairs to record them playing "Proud Mary" during the third week, I was one proud mama. "You guys sound amazing," I said, attempting to mask any hint of surprise in my voice. I really couldn't believe how much they had improved in such a short time.
By week six, they had decided to try out for the school-wide talent show. It was a huge deal, made even bigger by their song choice - "Free Bird." It was a lofty goal by any band's measure, and for them it was a real stretch. But they were determined, and it paid off. They were one of only 16 student acts to make the cut.
The night of the show I was a nervous wreck, but the boys were calm and confident. They were the opening act and definitely one of the most memorable as they took a respectable and remarkable second place that evening. Even Lynyrd Skynyrd would have been proud.
Of course, I had told them weeks before that just by being in the talent show they had already won. That's because in three short months they had accomplished more than anyone could have imagined. They demonstrated commitment. They showed fortitude. They had proven their perseverance. And most of all, they had become a team.
I guess this was actually the plan all along.