394974_2773815357460_1020852595_n“Tock, tock, tock, tock” was the sound that droned on in the living room last night as Gabrielle Baker stared at the metronome, her face showing all the vengeful ways she would like to make it stop.

“OK, let’s try again,” I said, and she sighed dramatically.

“I hate this,” she seethed, her voice a small whisper.

“I know,” I said. “But it works.”

About six weeks ago, my stepdaughter Gabrielle tried out for and earned a place in her school’s talent show by playing a slightly shaky rendition of “You belong with me” by Taylor Swift on the violin. Thrilled to have made the cut, she bounced through the door a few nights later and informed us of the news.

“It’s going to be perfect,” she said.

So, for the past three weeks, Taylor Swift has been the soundtrack at our house as Gabrielle practices to perfect the piece. It’s all come down to about 10 bars of music, a particularly tricky part that has her little fingers dancing at full speed. She had been wrestling with it for hours before I finally brought the metronome upstairs.

“No!” she said, immediately near tears.

“I know,” I said. “But it works.”

I turned on the metronome and put it at a snail’s pace, its resulting tock … tock … tock sounding like doom itself. She picked up her violin and reluctantly started playing, her saucer eyes forced to reexamine the notes in a painful, almost surgical way.

“OK, play it like that five times and you’re done.”

She did, letting me know I’d squeezed all the joy out of the music, and packed up that violin like she never wanted to see it again.

The next night, we started at the same pace and them moved it up slightly faster, her fingers moving ploddingly along with the music.

The process brought back lots of memories of my piano-playing days, in which my Hungarian teacher Victor would have me do the same. In my youth, I, too, hated the metronome and didn’t mind telling Victor and his toupee exactly how much every Thursday after school.

In fact, it was the metronome that had me commit my lone act of violence at the age of 10. I was trying to perfect my recital piece and I just couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t get it right. So, after about the 50th try, I picked up that metronome, looked at it contemplatively for a moment and then threw it on the ground with all my might.

It collapsed into dozens of pieces and I felt great. No remorse, no fear about getting caught, just release.

But the next week, a new metronome turned up on the piano courtesy of my dad, who likely knew how its predecessor had met its end but never said a word.

Luckily, Gabrielle is a far more well-adjusted kid than I was and no violence has befallen the metronome so far. And last week, her tricky part got a little faster and a little more perfect.

Finally last night, she played it through twice, at speed, and didn’t miss a note. I screamed from the kitchen and started dancing into the living room as she continued playing, rolling her eyes in that distinctly tweenager way.

After she’d finished and sat down to dinner, I couldn’t help myself.

“Works, don’t it?” I joked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said, eating a bite of broccoli.

On Thursday, Gabrielle Baker will step up on stage and turn into Taylor Swift. She’ll be wearing a silver dress that rains glitter whenever she takes a step, silver ballerina flats and silver flowers clipped into her hair that her mom will have artfully arranged. Then she’ll pick up her violin bow and start playing, tapping her foot a little to the music.

I’ll be in the audience bawling on cue.

One thought on “Tock, tock, tock, tock

  1. So happy for and proud of Gabrielle, the musician.
    You look great and probably sound amazing!
    Congrats!
    Love you lots,
    tante Denise xx

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