The great conductor Robert Shaw, in a moment often quoted by my chorus colleagues, once said of Beethoven’s ninth symphony: “Think, as you sing this, that someone in that audience is hearing the Beethoven 9th for the first time. Or the last.”
This week, Mayhem heard it for the first time. In utero, from the far stage-right chorister seats, about ten feet from the timpanist.
By all appearances she’s a fan. She danced to the second movement. The french horns made her squirm. The booming timpani made her jump. She fidgeted happily along with the cellos. But she kicked the hardest and most emphatically when she heard the audience applauding, giving the maestro a standing ovation. Perhaps she thought it was for her.
I’m surprised at how little I find myself imagining what she’ll be like as an adult, a teenager, a tantrum-throwing preschooler. I can barely fit my head around the idea that, two months from now, she’ll be here, a real little person sitting right over there in that baby swing, different from & or me or anyone else or anyone we’ve even imagined her to be.
We already know she’s beautiful. This weekend, greedily clutching the proceeds of a successful Craigslist sale (a pair of Bose 901 speakers, an unforgiven indulgence of my ex-husband that we were thrilled to liquidate), we headed out to Falls Church and procured ourselves twenty glorious minutes of 4-D ultrasound magic. (The highlights reel is now live on &’s facebook page.)
I’d had a peek at her back in late August, when I spent an afternoon at GW Hospital on the occasion of the Wounded Knee Incident. But & had not seen his daughter since July, when we found out that she was not, in fact, his son.
He was elated. I was elated. Mayhem, amped on orange juice, waved to us and blew kisses. (She may even have inherited her mommy’s eyebrow-rubbing habit.) We confirmed that she was still a girl, repaired home with our DVD and printed photos, and then, because everything felt so beautiful and we were on such a baby high, spent the rest of the afternoon making a giant plaster cast of my Pregnant Tummeh. (I think there are plans to decorate it at the baby shower next weekend.)
And then it was back to the Kennedy Center for the final Beethoven run, the last time Mayhem will hear it until after she’s born. She rolled over and kicked at the applause, again. I imagined her going bonkers in a few weeks, when it’s the Mahler they’ll be applauding and Carnegie Hall where we’ll be standing on stage, drinking in the ovation and sharing the adrenaline rush back and forth across the placenta.
I may have seen my daughter’s face, but I still don’t know her. I can’t guess what kind of a person she’ll grow up to be. But the odds are pretty good that she’ll be a diva.