Thursday, October 16, 2008

City Life

Every Wednesday, I pick my son up from daycare and cart him off to his violin lesson.

About a year ago, he asked to learn the double bass. Unfortunately, the double bass poses certain logistical problems for a 2-year old, and so I asked him if he mightn't want to play the cello, or perhaps the violin. He chose the violin.

We eventually found our way to a music store, and I rented him a 1/16 size violin. And yes, if you think that is adorable, it is. And he knows it, to the extent that it bothered him at first to hold it because he felt objectified. He felt as though I had put him in a bunny suit and asked him to dance a jig, which, in some sense, I had.

Anyway, with the violin in hand, I arranged lessons for him through my old cello teacher - her husband is a violinist, and I had long heard that he has great with kids. And what luck! The lessons are just up the street from his daycare. All good in theory.

The execution however...the lessons are Wednesday nights, after daycare but before dinner, and we are both tired and hungry by the time we arrive. Moreover, the lessons, to him, are partly an attempt to see what he can get away with.

It has occurred to me, watching my son, that the social world of classical music is very strange when set against the backdrop of "normal" Canadian society. He seems to be interested, but even as a three year old, he sees it as a lot of work, as resolutely unfun. He just wants to have fun.

But things are not always fun, are they? The great thing about classical music, or whatever you would like to call it, is that its emotional range is vast and unconstrained by fashion. We all like to be hedonistic sometimes, but the Lenten mind has its place as well.

So my son struggles with this. And last night, he was really tired, and he really wanted to play cars, and he refused to play his violin. And I sat there, trying to be out of the way, and the violin teacher pointed out to me that I nearly always tell my son what not to do. And he is right, of course.

So we leave, exhausted, crabby, and we do what we always do, which is wait at the corner of Ossington and Davenport for the bus. And although the bus schedule says "Frequent Service" its frequency is usually stuck in the ledger lines below the bass clef.

So we wait, and my son continues to push my already worn buttons. And then he does what many three year olds do after waiting 15 minutes for a frequent service bus, which is to inform me that he has to go to the bathroom.

I'm incredulous. So we walk back over to Davenport Road, and just as we enter the Portuguese Bakery where he can relieve himself (in the bathroom of course), we see two buses pass by, one behind the other.

We return to the bus stop, now deserted, and wait for another bus. It is now nearly his bedtime, and I am, at this point, irrationally angry at my son and his urinary tract.

Then it begins to rain. The bustop is in front of some houses and next to an alleyway, and as such, has no shelter. So we stand there.

I am pretty much at my wit's end at this point, when a noise from the alley turns me around.

It is a dove, struggling to walk, its wing broken and covered in blood. Behind it is a cat, quite young, the obvious perpetrator of the dove's injury. He moves in for the kill, but the cat, predator that he is, sees me and wonders if I might come at him, or try to snatch the dove.

He backs off. I wonder what to do. The dove is struggling, and I wonder if it mightn't be a bad idea to put it out of its misery, just in case the cat decides the food at home is less trouble.

Then my son asks me "What is the cat doing?"

I reply, "He's trying to kill the bird."


"Because that's what cats do. They kill their food. Just like people do."

He looks at me, and then looks at the bird, and I think it occurs to him, for the first time, that this is something that happens a hell of a lot.

The dove begins to recover, and so the cat decides that it's time to resume pouncing. The dove manages to get away again, and I am seriously considering either killing the dove because it's in really bad shape or shooing the cat away so the dove can suffer its last moments with some kind of dignity.

I begin to walk towards the dove. Our bus arrives.

I feel the rain again and realise I should probably let nature take its course, whatever that means when watching a cat try to eat a dove on a sidewalk in midtown Toronto.

We get on the bus.

What a cruel man I have become.

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