I came up the staircase and lifted the telephone cord over my head so I could enter the kitchen. My mother had the 8′ cord stretched to its limit. She was talking on the phone while doing the dishes. I could tell she was talking about me. Why was she talking about me? Something about Washington school. A teacher? Was it a teacher? I tugged at her blouse. She nudged me with her hip. She said goodbye and motioned with her eyes for me to catch the phone as she lifted her chin. I caught it and climbed onto the chair to hang the receiver back on the wall.
Who was that? I asked.
Mr. Iverson? What did he want?
He said you have good hands.
He said you’d be good at the vio- something.
No, the other one.
Yes, that’s it.
He called to tell you that?
He said you can join the orchestra if you want.
I was in the fifth grade. I had just gotten a clarinet from Carlson’s music store. No small purchase for our family. My hands were already invested. But I liked that he noticed them – my hands. Imagine that! A teacher paying that much attention. What gifts we were given daily at Washington Elementary.
I played the clarinet through my senior year. I still have it. But my hands had different ideas. They are daily covered in words and paint. They are good hands. And I am grateful for them every day. I wonder if I would have believed in them though, if people hadn’t believed in them first. If I hadn’t had teachers who invested their time. A mother who invested her heart.
I believe in myself, because they believed in me first. So I use them, these hands. Once more, again, still, ever, to give thanks, and to tell you, you can join the “orchestra” if you want.