My Dad is notoriously hard to buy for. It’s become a running joke in our family. Although he has hobbies, he’s very specific about his hobbies. He loves building things, so you might think, “Oh, I can buy him some new tools.”
You’d be wrong.
Not only does he have every tool ever created, he has multiples of each one. In the rare event that he does need something, it’s always very specific and usually exceeds the budget we’ve set.
But this year, I had the perfect idea: tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He’d always wanted go, but had never got around to it.
Step one was finding an excuse to get him to book the time off work. I made up a fake Josh Groban concert and asked if he’d be willing to drive my Mom to the city that night if I got us tickets to go. He’s not normally one to ask a lot of questions, so I was unprepared for the rest of the conversation about this nonexistent concert.
“Sure, where is he playing.”
Shit. “Um, Massey Hall.”
I’m such a bad liar that I literally can’t think of a single other performer in this moment. “Oh, it’s just him I think.”
“How much are the tickets?”
Oh no, what’s a reasonable amount? I’m so stressed that I can barely remember how money works. WHY IS HE ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS?!? “Around $100?”
Thankfully he dropped the questions before I spoiled the surprise with my terrible lying.
Fast forward to Christmas morning, where I’d wrapped up individual puzzle pieces with writing on the back so that he’d have to assemble it to find out what his gift was. He was momentarily distracted by the dogs on the front of the puzzle before giving me a quizzical look once he’d read the date for our visit to the TSO.
“Um. The 17th?”
“Oh. Um…” He looked over at my Mom, clearly not sure of what to say.
Somehow my terrible lying had convinced him that there actually was a Josh Groban concert. It’s a shame that I was a well-behaved teenager, because based on this experience, I definitely could have got away with lying about a lot of stuff.
So it was all set: we’d go to the symphony together on January 17th. Although I was looking forward to spending quality time with him, and I was really happy with how much he liked his gift, I wasn’t so sure that the symphony would be my thing. I mean, how exciting could it be to watch some people play music for a couple hours?
We had a lovely Italian dinner across the street beforehand, where we got the chance to catch up on what the other has been up to lately. I love how excited my Dad gets talking about his work; it’s rare to see someone love their job so much.
Once we got to Roy Thompson Hall, we had fun people-watching while we waited to be let in. People-watching is a hobby that my Dad and I both love. The best place we’ve ever found is O’Hare Airport, where you get a really interesting cross-section of people, and everyone’s in such a hurry that they don’t really notice you. It’s also great to have someone you know really well, because then–like my Dad and I–you can have entire conversations just with quick glances.
By the time the performance was about to start, I figured that the best part of the night was done (catching up with my Dad) and that I was in for a pretty boring couple of hours. I mean, I was partially right: the time with my Dad was the best part of the evening, as I’d expected. But the performance was anything but boring.
I was blown away by the coordination all of this must take. And, like I enjoy hearing my Dad talk about his job, it was amazing to see these people doing work that they love (and that they have likely been training at most of their lives). In particular, the soloists (Teng Li and Jonathan Crow) were just as riveting to watch as they were to listen to.
Because we were both orchestra newbies, we weren’t sure when you were supposed to applaud and when you weren’t, which became a bit of a (silent) running joke between us. We were also entertained by how everyone saved up their coughing until they were between movements, and we started calling them “cough-ee breaks” (we both love a good Dad joke).
It was an excellent night, and I’m really glad that I went. If you’re interested in checking it out, but not sure if you’ll like it, the TSO also does performances where the orchestra plays along with a film, like this performance of The Wizard of Oz. I feel like that might be a good entry point for someone who’s into the idea but isn’t sure of their attention span.