I had a childlessness-related wobble the other day. I was watching a soppy movie (don’t at me) and it ended with a father promising to teach his baby daughter how to play basketball.
I’m not usually a fan of Hallmark treacle. I can’t stand the over-sentimentalism that dominates the genre of ‘family’ movies. But this movie was, on the whole, OK. It was the way the father described to his daughter all the different tricks he could teach her, right at the very end of the movie.
And suddenly it hit me: I wanted to teach my daughter how to play the keyboard.
I wanted to teach my daughter how to play the keyboard.
If I had been able to have a daughter, I would have wanted to share my love of music with her. I would have sat with her at the keyboard, showing her notes and chords and melodies. I would have taught her tricks with fingering and hand positions. I would have passed on my knowledge.
Then I would have sat and soaked up the joy of her playing. I would have watched her practise, getting it wrong, trying over and over until she mastered it. I would have praised and congratulated her when she succeeded.
The dream goes on: I would have played duets with her, sitting elbow to elbow at the keyboard, looking out the window as we synchronised ad harmonised. Maybe she would have been a singer too, and we could have sung together as we played in perfect time.
Maybe she, like me, would have been a songwriter. Maybe I could have listened in rapturous delight as she composed, fiddling with notes and chords, pulling lyrics into line, creating new and spontaneous sounds. Maybe I could have nurtured that creative spirit within her, that lasting childlikeness, that ongoing love of playing and creating and discovering.
I could have nurtured her creative spirit.
This fantasy hurts. It hurts to think of what I could have had and will never have. It hurts to picture her, perched at the keyboard, face frowning in concentration, hands dancing lightly across the ivory. It hurts to think this will never happen.
It surprised me the other day to discover how much love I still have for my imaginary daughter, she who I never met, never saw, never even conceived. Can one love another human being who never came into existence? It must be possible, because I do.
Thinking of my daughter that day, my heart physically hurt and the tears flowed. I missed her. I missed what I could have imparted to her. I missed all we could have shared together. I missed the lost chance to pour out my love for her across the span of her lifetime.
Guess what I did next. I went and sat at my beloved keyboard. And I started playing for her. Out of nowhere, chords came together and a melody appeared. Right there at the keyboard, I put my phone on record and wrote a song for my daughter, the girl I never met.
I called it Angel at my Keyboard.
I wrote a song for my daughter.
I hope to share it with you someday. In the meantime, this is how I am coping with Mother’s Day this year. I am grieving. I am wobbling. But I am also singing and playing for my little girl, my angel. It is a way to remember her—and to celebrate what might have been.
Update: here she is, the Angel at my keyboard!
How are you coping with Mother’s Day this year? Do you find music, or another creative outlet, to be helpful for you? Is there a dream within you that needs to be grieved? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.