Friday, July 18, 2008


My daughter Anna refers to my parenting as hands-off-care and laughs. My baby will turn 21 on July 21. Anna is my first-born. During my pregnancy, I was rather naive about motherhood, telling myself having a baby would be a cinch. I didn't grow up with younger siblings and never babysat, so, I came up short on experience. But it's not as if I hadn't been forewarned. This is what my mother said after she learned of my pregnancy: It's not the same as raising Boston Terriers, Marjorie Jill. A child is a full time responsibility, and you're a violinist. How will you find the time to balance everything? I couldn't tell if she was mad or glad, but I knew Mom would roll up her sleeves and help. I'd take a short summer respite from performances for maternity leave, and then begin full swing as concertmaster of Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Peter Britt Festival with a daunting pile of repertoire, including solo work, to prepare for upcoming seasons. I figured the violin would not only soothe but lull our newborn to sleep.

At the onset of labor, Ilkka was excused from a dress rehearsal of a Wagner opera to assist in the birthing. (That was back in the old days, when Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera still had a few decent individuals in their midst—compassion, then a core value). Our daughter Anna Mirjam burst into this world weighing 4000 grams (almost 9 lbs) after a long, arduous labor. She was more perfect than Ilkka or I ever dreamed possible, with beautiful and wholesome features resembling both our mothers. It wasn't until a week or so after Anna's birth that I attempted practicing, and found to my dismay, that violin playing caused her to scream bloody murder. I tried everything: con sordino, molto adagio, doloroso, even pizzicato, but it was to no avail. My violin playing did nothing but agitate my own child, and I turned into a wreck. Together, Anna and I unleashed a torrent of tears, until Ilkka calmed her down by cradling her and singing Finnish lullabies.

I don't know how we survived those early experiences. Anna wasn't a sleeper as an infant. She gave new meaning to the term terrible twos, and I threw tantrums for precious practice and sleep time. Over the years, I ran myself ragged trying to balance the professional obligations with motherhood, skipping school gatherings and small celebrations for futile board meetings and boring luncheons. I did the best I could, earning the title she coined: Best Hands-Off-Care Mom because in a way, my daughter Anna raised herself, and did so, magnificently.

"Anna," I said to my self-assured, college graduate the other day, almost twenty one years later. I have to look up to her because she's so tall. "How about I do things differently from now on? You know, more hands-on. I have time now."
My Anna didn't even stop for pause, or give the offer a moment's thought.
"Oh no, Ma. Please. No, no, no. It's best the way it is." And she reminded. "I love you."

Photo of Anna Talvi 2008

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