Oh Say Can You See … Oh Shoot … What Were Those Words Again?

The Super Bowl is known for producing sparkly rings, creative ads, and a glitzy halftime show. But during last Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV in Texas, Christina Aguilera, American pop singer icon, produced a Super Bowl memorable moment when she accidentally flubbed the lyrics in the “Star Spangled Banner.” Instead of saying “o’er ramparts we watched,” she mistakenly sang, “what so proudly we watched.” Gasp. The nerve! Since that evening, she has endured endless criticism from people all around the world. To be honest, if I had to perform in front of ninety million people, I wouldn’t have even made it to the stage. Instead, I would have been lying in the fetal position backstage, with my thumb in my mouth, whimpering for my mother. Christina Aguilera, I feel for you because I too once had my own Super Bowl moment—albeit it in front of just three people on a stage in Nebraska.

I once played the cello. Despite a desperate attempt to bribe my cello teacher with an undisclosed amount of cash from my piggy bank, he signed me up to audition in front of three judges who were deemed the difficult task of determining the best cellist in a state known for only two things—its beef and its beefy football players. Oh, and that wasn’t the worst of it. Not only did I have to audition in front of three judges, I also had to memorize a concerto as long as Beethoven’s life. For months, I practiced my concerto, eventually committing every note to memory. I played that concerto in my head at school, while I slept, and even while I took a shower. As the date grew closer, my accompanist joined me during rehearsal. One day when my cello teacher wasn’t listening, I whispered, “What do we do if I lose my place?”

She patted my hand, “Don’t worry, honey,” she said, “If that happens—and I’m sure it won’t—I’ll help you find your way back.“ She didn’t seem to be concerned at all, but I was so anxious that, at age twelve, I had already developed worry lines in my forehead.

Finally the big day arrived. My cello teacher met my mother and me backstage where other seemingly confident cellists stood awaiting their turn. “Ready?” he asked, smiling as if I didn’t have a care in the world. I nodded. Yes, I was ready for my old life to end and my new life to begin. My nerves had completely overtaken my body. My knees knocked, my palms dripped, and my hands shook. Other than that, I was completely calm. Suddenly, I heard my name called. My cello teacher gently pushed me onto the stage. I heard my heels clicking as I walked across the stage to the folding chair that awaited me. I sat down, placed my cello between my legs, and wondered if I should just vomit on my shoes or into my cello. The three judges stared at me over their glasses. I awaited a nod from my accompanist. I placed my bow on the strings. She nodded. And off we went. One quarter way through the concerto, I smiled to myself. I was the next Yo-Yo Ma. Certainly, after this performance, I was destined for a long career as a professional cellist.

Suddenly, it was like little gremlins had crawled into my brain and removed all its cells. I was so busy imagining myself on the stage at Carnegie Hall that I forgot every note I had ever learned. I stopped. My bow hovered over my strings. My accompanist stopped. Her hands hovered over the piano keys. The judges looked up from their pads. My stomach turned over three times. I turned to look at my accompanist who appeared to be panicking. “Help,” I mouthed. As she furiously flipped pages, she nodded to me once again and began playing bar after bar of the music. Apparently, I had nothing left in my brain but air. All of a sudden, the skies opened, the angels sang, and my brain created enough new cells that I remembered the concerto once again. I attacked the strings with renewed vigor, playing every note perfectly until the music ended. I stood up, bowed, thanked the judges, and somehow managed to leave the stage with a tiny shred of dignity.

Meanwhile backstage, my cello teacher had chewed off all his fingernails and my mother was in the process of scrounging in the bottom of her purse for a Valium. Just between you and me, I was just glad it was over. In a remarkable twist of fate, the judges took mercy on me that day and awarded me a high rating despite my mistakes. Turns out, I may have been the only one expecting perfection.

Even the best musicians have a bad days every once and a while. To have the courage to stand in front of millions and belt out one of the most difficult songs ever written is what separates someone who lives for music from the rest of us in the world who are simply there to enjoy it.

 “Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize.”

–Elizabeth Harrison

By Vicky DeCoster

All Rights Reserved

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About Vicky DeCoster

Award-winning humor writer Vicky DeCoster is the author of "From Diapers to Dorkville," "Husbands, Hot Flashes, and All That Hullabaloo!" and "The Wacky World of Womanhood." She has been published in over 60 magazines, books, and on several web sites. Vicky lives in Nebraska with her husband and two children where she loves to laugh every day. Visit her at www.wackywomanhood.com.
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