Warm air rushed through her body. Her keys fluttered to life with excitement. Tones of beauty poured out of her bell and flowed all around the workshop. As the maker played, the notes skipped up and down the scales to her delight. After the conclusion of the standard test, he tapped his foot and improvised something completely new. Music! She was made to make music! And this song was all hers. When the maker had finished his work, he carefully disassembled her and proudly laid her in a velvet lined case. As the lid was closed, the new clarinet glimpsed the dusty, aproned old man beaming with pride.
She waited in her case for what seemed like an eternity. But she knew the face of her maker and she knew that if he had put such loving care and detail into her formation that it was not just to leave her in the dark. She was made for music! And though waiting was difficult, she waited well because she knew what she was made for.
When daylight finally threw itself across her, she felt its warmth with anticipation! But the face she saw now was of an unfriendly looking young man who peered at her with a scowl. He picked up and examined each of her sections with harsh scrutiny, then dropped them back with a scoff. He spoke to the clerk and pointed to the rack of other clarinets. The store clerk shrugged and gestured toward the clarinet on the counter in the velvet lined case. The irritated young man shoved money into the store clerk’s hand and slammed the lid shut. The clarinet thought that this young man did not seem as happy with her as her maker was. She did not feel the same care and love from him, but she knew what she was made for. She was made for music. And she could not wait to begin!
There was not much light to cast upon her when the case opened again. The unfriendly looking young man pulled her out into a gloomy, bare walled apartment. He assembled the clarinet systematically, then took her and his chair over to a music stand and sat down. He then lifted the clarinet to his lips and began to play scales. The clarinet expected the same warm feeling she got from her maker but that feeling did not come. Again and again he would march her up and down the scales. Hour after hour. What felt like a dance with the maker now felt like a march with a soldier. She thought things would be different if he would just play music! She was made for music! But when he finally did place some sheet music on the music stand and began to rehearse, her sense of separation only grew.
The patience of the young man did not improve as the days went on. Nor would he be gentler to her when they would practice with other musicians. With each missed note he would squeeze her tighter and tighter. He broke reeds often and shouted his discontent even more. He would blame the clarinet for each missed note or dropped tempo. Sometimes she would cry which would make her notes squeak. This especially would make the young man furious. With every insult and shout she began to believe there truly was something wrong with her. Something broken and unworthy about how she was made or who she had become since, and she wondered why the young man did not throw her away and get himself a better clarinet.
One day the case opened and she saw the young man was wearing a tuxedo. The clarinet could tell they were not in his apartment anymore. The young man assembled her and then took his place in line with the other musicians behind a large curtain. Then there was the sound of applause and the procession moved forward onto a stage. She noticed her keys were glimmering! She looked up to see the hundreds of lights beaming down from the rafters. Two far off balconies were strung entirely with evergreen garland and large red bows hung above the seating on the floor. No seat was empty and the sheer magnitude of the concert hall fluttered her insides with excitement and anxiety. She wondered who she was to play in such a grand place in front of so many? But if her maker made her to play music, and the young man brought her here, then play she would. Maybe playing music in such a joyful place would be the thing that would bring back the feelings she once knew.
As musicians took their places, the conductor took his. The conductor raised his baton, the musicians raised their instruments, and they all began to play. The music was beautiful, and the concert hall was magnificent, but to her despair, even they could not fix what was breaking inside of her. Her heart was so heavy she began to cry. And as she cried, she squeaked. The young man’s hands flashed hot and gripped violently, pressing hard on the keys, but she still squeaked. His grip was vice-like and he blew harder and harder, trying to force her to play beautifully, but she could not. His heartlessness and all the times he had called her worthless flooded her entire being and made playing music impossible. For the rest of the concert, the young man only pretended to play. His lips would not touch her mouthpiece again. His hands, now cold, only feigned the proper fingering. When the concert was over, He did not bother putting the clarinet back in her case. Instead, he stomped to the stage door and before he slammed it behind him, he angrily threw the clarinet into the garbage can.
The clarinet lay there amidst the trash and a deep darkness settled into her. She felt her worth now being defined by what surrounded her. Garbage, she thought. Broken trash. Useless and worthless. The corrupted belief that the young man was right to throw her away. She wondered if the intent of the maker all along was to craft her poorly, place her in the hands of a musician who rightly understood her value, and then cast her into the darkness where she belonged. She now believed that she was not made for music, but instead, made for the trash.
Her body and spirit had turned so cold that she did not give notice to the jostling of the garbage can. She did not feel the sliding of the papers, apple cores and other refuse as they were all dumped into a larger waste bin. And she did not see the older woman who looked down on her with compassion. The older woman picked her up, took off one of her yellow rubber gloves and ran her rough hand up and down her body, stopping to rub her thumb against a large crack that was now at the base of her bell. With the greatest of care, the older woman pulled a clean garbage bag from her supply cart and gently slid the clarinet into it.
When the bag opened, if the clarinet hadn’t gone cold, she would have seen that she was now in the older woman’s apartment. The rose-colored walls peeked through tiny spaces between the many photographs of smiling people. The older woman laid her on the counter and then carefully cleaned each section. The gentle scrubbing hands warmed her body slightly, but the clarinet’s heart remained numb. The older woman laid the clarinet on a towel spread across the kitchen table, then walked to her closet and pulled out an old shoe box. After gathering tape, scissors, bright green and gold wrapping paper and a bow, she cautiously disassembled the clarinet, wrapped each section in a white sock, then placed each bundle carefully in the shoe box and closed the lid.
When the shoe box opened, a much smaller face with bright eyes, a wide open smile and a few missing teeth grinned down at the clarinet. The gum chewing little girl squealed with delight, gave the older woman a giant hug, and then fidgeted with excitement as the older woman showed her how to carefully assemble the clarinet. The Christmas tree lights twinkled and reflected off her keys as little hands playfully pressed each one and little feet twirled her around the rose-colored apartment. The older woman pointed out that the clarinet would need a reed to play music, so after the two had breakfast, they wrapped themselves in their warmest clothes and disassembled the clarinet, wrapping each section back in socks, and laid her back in the box.
The little girl opened the shoe box on the music store counter, unwrapped each section, assembled the clarinet, and proudly lifted it above her head, right under the store clerk’s nose. He smiled patiently and took the instrument from her mittened hands. He noticed the large crack on the bell and looked sympathetically at the little girl. He then pointed to the rack of brand-new clarinets. The wide-eyed little girl protested and grasped for her clarinet. The store clerk dutifully returned the clarinet to the little girl, who then took a large blob of pink bubble gum out of her mouth and stretched the gum across the large crack. She smiled and proudly displayed her handywork. The older woman and the store clerk looked at each other and smiled. The store clerk retrieved a box of reeds and gave the little girl a beginner’s music book. The older woman paid the clerk as the little girl packed the clarinet back up for the trip home.
Warm air once again poured through her body. Her keys awkwardly clacked back to life. Sour notes tumbled out of her bell and flowed all around the little girl’s bedroom. And yet, somehow, the clumsy noises echoed the beautiful music the smiling maker played, the song that was all hers. Every day after school the little girl would run home, pull her out of her shoebox, put her back together, stretch a new piece of bubblegum across the crack and play with delight for hours. Within a week or two, the little girl had mastered a few simple songs, and as she poured love into her, the clarinet slowly came back to herself again. Her notes becoming clearer and stronger. Even the practicing of scales now brought her pleasure. In the loving hands of this little girl, she felt like she could play anything asked of her with joy. The little girl beamed with pride and the clarinet’s songs rang out merrily, her sense of worth and purpose returning. She was indeed made for music, but more than that, she was made for love.
The featured image is courtesy of Adam R. Nettesheim and used with his permission for The Cultivating Project.
Adam is a vagabond of the arts. He is an animator by training, a media specialist by vocation and a writer by hobby. Though he “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for”, in his wandering through the arts he has found the firm conviction that God has been writing His story through our stories since the beginning, and He’s not done yet. Adam and his wife Sarah have 3 children and live in Northern Colorado. His artistic interests range from G.K. Chesterton to Looney Tunes.