ON WITH THE SHOW

by Patricia Maurer

Blind or sighted, all mothers tend to have one thing in common: They want their children to have better opportunities than they themselves had—no matter how good their own were. In "On With The Show," Patricia Maurer reminisces about her own childhood and shares her hopes for her daughter. Here is what she has to say:

Almost everyone dreams of doing something—something spectacular and out of the ordinary. Parents dream that their children will have opportunities to do things that they as children couldn’t or didn’t do. As a child I wished I could sing and play the piano and clarinet, but I didn’t seem to have a talent toward singing or playing musical instruments.

My parents gave me the opportunity to take piano and clarinet lessons, and I sang in the school and church choirs. I could see only a little then and am nearly totally blind now. The teachers and my parents were not sure that I could get very far with my music, but everyone was willing to try.

I wore glasses, which helped me to see a little better. I used a magnifying glass clipped to my glasses to read print and musical scores. When reading music, I would read a line, looking very closely at the page. Then, I would memorize that line. Learning each piece was very slow and tedious. I did not seem to have any talent for learning to play these songs just by listening, although I did try playing by ear.

As you may know, there is such a thing as Braille music. To use it one must read it first and then memorize it, so that it may be played on the piano or on another instrument. I did not learn Braille as a child. I wish I had.

Recently, my daughter Dianna, who is sighted, began taking piano lessons. She practices each day and, her teacher says, reads music easily.

When it came time for her first recital, we arrived early and sat in the front row. Although I suppose Dianna was a little nervous, she did not appear so. When it was her turn to perform, she walked to the stage, seated herself comfortably at the piano, and played "On With The Show," the piece she and her teacher had chosen. How different the recital was for her than my recitals had been when I was a child!

I especially remember one time that I had worked and worked on a piece on the clarinet. Right before I was to go on stage, I could not remember my piece. If you have ever played the clarinet you know that becoming nervous definitely does not help your performance. To bite down hard on the mouthpiece produces a very squeaky sound. When I began to play there was only a series of squeaks. I was embarrassed and wished I were not there at all. My parents did their best to comfort me, but I am sure they were embarrassed, too.

I do not know if I would have done better if I had not been so nervous about going to the stage. Maybe it would have helped to have learned as a child how to travel with a cane and, more importantly, to learn that it is okay to be blind—that one does not have to pretend to be sighted. However, learning these things was not an option for me. There were not people around who could teach me. My parents did the best that they could, but they are the first to say how much better it would have been had they known about the National Federation of the Blind.

This incident, although embarrassing, has not damaged me for life. There are hundreds of children sighted or blind who are now adults and who can remember not doing so well at recitals—embarrassing themselves and their parents.

My daughter is not blind. She learns quickly. I know that today there are children who are blind who can competently walk to the piano or play the clarinet. They have had training and opportunities. There are still others who are afraid and need the chance to learn and succeed.

As I listened to my daughter play, I was so proud. Proud of her and proud of our family. We work together to see that she has a chance to learn. She will take that opportunity and do well with it. I also thought of my parents, and I thanked them for giving me the opportunities which they gave me.

Dianna is committed to doing well with the piano, and I am committed to doing my best for her.

So, "On With The Show." Who knows what the next recital will bring?