Our daughter was asked to play a musical number during Sacrament meeting. She chose a Christmas favorite—"Oh Come, Oh Come, Emanuel," and the practicing commenced. For two months it commenced and commenced and commenced. In fact, so much did it commence that I almost preferred Feliz Navidad. Of course, by almost I mean that will never, EVER happen, but I was grateful when she finally perfected it.
We dressed her in Christmas plaid, long blond hair flowing over her shoulders and lips painted in festive red. When the speaker sat down, Julia stood up and Sterling and I grabbed each other's hands, knowing we were about to be the shiniest ornament on the tree.
Her fingers were like Olympic figure skaters, trilling and twirling and dusting up shimmering notes that hung in the air like magic. Our nerves dissipated as we relaxed our grip and both started to grin like arrogant Cheshire cats.
Suddenly, a troll escaped from Hell and came running across the piano keys.
At least that's what I think happened, because with no warning, every single note was wrong. And I don't just mean wrong, but I mean it didn't even resemble the song. And this didn't just last for a quick couple of seconds until she got her bearings. No, this went on for at least—at LEAST—20 seconds. An entire page of convulsions. It was like her fingers were chasing the demon as he went crunking across the keyboard.
Then just as quickly as it began, it ceased, and she climbed up from the frozen ice to try that triple jump again. Unfortunately, just as before, the exact same thing happened—all Hades broke loose mid-refrain. Sterling and I looked at each other and we knew; this was going to cost her the gold.
It was also unfortunate that, by this time, I had started to laugh. And I use the term lightly because really, I had a complete meltdown—I'm talking the kind of collapse that gets you kicked out of a rock concert, it's so disruptive.
Mid hysteria, I looked over Sterling's shoulder as he shot a spiritual text to our other children who weren't there: "Your sister just slaughtered the shit out of her piano piece..." More was said, but that was enough. My composure packed up and left to start a band. To make a much too long story shorter, I sob-laughed for the rest of Julia's recital and two more speakers. Had to redo my makeup.
When the meeting was over, every lovely person in the ward put an arm around Julia and commiserated about what had happened, even while pretending nobody had noticed. Most of them ended with, "But you sure looked pretty" (as you went down in flames). Jules handled it beautifully, and I stood by her side, wiping remnants of eye liner off my chin, knowing I was an enormous liability, but grateful that the glare of the spotlight was dimming.
Turns out I was wrong.
At the conclusion of Sunday School, a good man stood up to say the prayer—a thoughtful prayer. There were several extended pauses between phrases and he finished one particular sentence with the name of our Savior. Well, in our culture, those are trigger words, you guys. Prompts, if you will. They signal the end of the prayer, and that's when we all exclaim, "Amen." But that kind of thing is all about the timing.
THIS time, it was my dear mother who misread the cue and offered up a hearty, "Amen", only to realize that, apparently, there was more to be said. He ignored her suggestion and the interrupted prayer continued. My mom, mortified, whispered, "Don't you dare start laughing," but it was too late. And I haven't stopped since.
We all gathered together that afternoon for dinner. Every few seconds, we relived our humiliation, and lamented that our nearly flawless facades had crumbled to pieces. But my mom put the prettiest bow on it when she said, "You know, I've never liked someone more because they were perfect. I only like them more when they're not."
Pretty sure a lot of people like us more.
I asked Julia for a Reader's Digest reenactment. She obliged, bless her heart. Just times this by 10.