Father-daughter-Beyoncé bonding

Abby at the mic, Dad in the shadows. Photo/Rina Takahashi

Conversations these days with my 15-year-old daughter go something like this:

Abby (getting out of the car): “Can you write me a note? I’m going to be late for class.”

Me: “You’re not going to be late. Just be quick.”

“I won’t make it.”

“You’ll make it.”

“No, I won’t. I need a note.”

“In the time it takes me to write the note, you could get to class.”

“I’m not going to make it. I need a note.”

“What should it say? ‘Abby is late for class because she’s late for class’?”

And so on.

Abby and I get under each other’s skin these days – the sneering, the glares, the sarcasm, the outbursts and eye rolls. And Abby’s pretty ornery too.

I like to think it’s just a phase, that someday soon we’ll go back to the days when the sound of my breathing didn’t infuriate her and I didn’t lose my mind because she’s watching back-to-back seasons of “Friends” for, what is this, the fifth time?

So when Abby asked me to accompany her on piano for her school’s talent show, I thought only one thing: Don’t screw this up.

Imagine coming upon a deer in the forest and, not wanting to scare it off, you just stand there very quietly, no sudden moves. Now imagine that deer wanting to sing “Sandcastles” by Beyoncé.

Originally, Abby was going to both sing and play and asked me to teach her the piano part. “You only have a couple of weeks to learn it. Why don’t you ask the Music teacher to accompany you? Or I could play it.”

Hello, little deer.

She said she’d ask the Music teacher.

Some days later, Abby approached me and asked if I would play.

“Sure,” I said, all cool like, but inside I was like Sally Fields receiving an Oscar. “You like me! You really like me!” I asked her mother if she put her up to it. She swears she didn’t.

My piano skills are rudimentary, but this song was right up my alley: left hand octaves and simple chords on the right hand, nothing but whole and half notes. But we would be performing in front of the entire school. I did not want to screw this up, not because I would embarrass myself but because my daughter who barely spoke to me would never speak to me again.

I practiced every day. I listened to Beyoncé’s version. There were backup singers on the repeated verse. Could I be a backup singer? A few oohs and aahs? How hard could it be?

Don’t. Screw. This. Up.

“Abby,” I said in the evening. “Do you want to practice?”

“I’m too tired.”

“Abby,” I said the following evening. “Do you want to practice?”

“On the weekend.”

“It’s going to be a busy weekend. And then there’s school next week. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“It’s fine. You practice on your own, and I’ll practice on my own.”

“But we need to get used to each other.”

“Right, and we’ll do that this weekend.”

Step away from the deer.

We finally practiced. Abby sang beautifully. I kept screwing up.

“I keep listening to you and losing my focus,” I said.

“Just worry about yourself,” she cautioned.

“So, what if I add some ooo-ooohs on the second verse. You know, something a little different on the repeat. Want to try that?”

She was game. It sounded okay. I guess. I don’t know. Maybe it sounded like a 51-year-old wheezing at the piano.

“What do you think?” I asked, grabbing my cheeks. I found myself clawing my face and eyes whenever we rehashed our practices. Anyone watching would see a man uncomfortably worried about screwing it up.

We steadily improved. On the day of the show, we rehearsed at the venue with microphones, me at the piano on stage, Abby beside me. Just concentrate, I told myself. Keep the beat, oooh when you’re supposed to oooh, don’t screw up.

The night of the performance, however, a logistics change found me up on stage, Abby at a mic on the floor far from me, not how we had rehearsed it. That’s fine, I thought. Just play like we practiced.

“Ready?” I asked. Abby nodded.

I began the intro. The F key. It was stuck halfway. What? I had to really hit it to get a sound from it. There was a lot of F in this song. F as in “focus.” Focus! Do not screw up!

I did not screw up. I pounded the F out of that F key. The song flew by. The audience cheered. Abby turned to smile at me. We were so far away, I could only air high-five her. She air high-fived back – or maybe it was a hand gesture that said, “Oh, stop that, you’re so embarrassing!”

Still. I’ll take it.

or slightly closer on Facebook.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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29 Responses to Father-daughter-Beyoncé bonding

  1. Yay to you, The Deer Whisperer! And to the deer. Lovely performance.

  2. ksbeth says:

    wonderful. i lived through that stage 3 times, and it never failed to amaze me. I’m sure i was guilty of this myself once upon a time. so good you could connect and find a common ground. queen b is quite the healer.

  3. Wonderful, Ross – your family has talent!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      One of the things we butt heads over: “Join the choir! Audition for musicals! Join the play!” Grrrrr… I mean, if you have talent… right? Am I right? Tell me I’m right?

  4. pinklightsabre says:

    What a marvelous story on multiple levels. Clawing at your cheeks, wheezing…I get that. The distance on stage its own metaphor right? Wow. Good work, dad.

  5. This was lovely…brought tears to my eyes. I suspect this is going to be one of those “forever” memories. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lynn says:

    Well done Ross. Eventually she will move on from the “Dad is so annoying” phase & realize how lucky she is to have you as her father. In the meantime, don’t take it personally, it’s a tough age for a girl.

  7. List of X says:

    I’m not at all surprised your daughter chose you to play the piano. It’s very likely that image search for “piano accompanist” would show your photo.

  8. shruti502 says:

    A huge round of applause from my side here.You both were amazing and beautiful.Congratulate her from my side please!

  9. Favorite Sister says:

    You’ve forgotten your “favorite” nephew (just kidding Adrian). “Parents are PATHETIC” was Damien’s sustaining mantra during the beloved teen years. But miraculously, you’ll find your intelligence and value as a human being returns the other side of teenagehood. And in the meantime, sometimes we get to play piano for them….

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Hi Favorite Sister. Fancy meeting you here. Deb suffered the brunt with the other girls, this is new to me. James just kept it all tamped down in fine Murray male fashion.

  10. gavinkeenan says:

    A beautiful memory, for both of you.

  11. I had NO IDEA you could play a piano. Gadzooks. Is there no end to the layers? She’ll never forget that. You won’t, either, I’ll bet.

    I like that we both have 15-year old daughters. We should form a support group.

  12. Is that what it’s like to have a father who actually gives a shit about you? Wow, some kids don’t know what agony and abuse they’re missin’.

  13. mavis murray says:

    Proud grandparents
    Well done Abby and Ross. Very proud of both of you. Do it more often. Lovely memories for both of you. And Ross remember my motto for the teen years: “This too shall pass”. And it does and all
    too quickly. Abby: Sing, sing, sing. You brought tears to our eyes.

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