Author: Marie-Helene Bertino


When I Got Out of His Way This Is Who My Son Became

August 26, 2014 Book Review 5


Photo Credit: G. Millwood Photography, LLC

Photo Credit: G. Millwood Photography, LLC

He was eleven when my baby boy received his first guitar.  You would have thought I had given him the sun, moon and stars with that $99 black-on-white-gloss electric guitar {that even came with the tiniest amp you’ve ever seen in your life}.  It was not long before Jacob was playing his heart out, replacing strings left and right and eyeing bigger, better {and much more expensive} guitars.  Some people can become amazing musicians with hours upon hours of practice while there are those lucky few who have an innate talent that, given the practice, makes you feel as though you’re in the presence of divine magic.  My son is one of those gloriously gifted musicians who takes practice to a whole new level.

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene BertinoIn 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas Alex is the 16-year-old son of Lorca, owner of The Cat’s Pajamas, famous jazz club in Philadelphia.  Lorca struggles with his son’s desire to play music because he fears the life ahead of Alex if he becomes a musician:

They know they have to practice when they are filled with love.  When they are filled with bile.  When the sun is out and everyone with a palpably alive soul is on the beach, they are in wood-paneled dumps, practicing.  Until they ruin any chance at being substantial and there is no soul on earth who will have them.  Through that, you practice.  What hurts most, you do again.  Away from the living people you practice for.  Toward the shaking, fleeting thing you only let yourself half-believe in.  Most times you do not find it but in search of it, you practice, scared of your ability to be so wholly alone. {p. 244}

Reading 2 A.M. gave me a bit of insight into my own musician.   Jacob is happiest whenever he has a guitar in hand and, audience of one or audience of hundreds, Jacob gives all to the music his fingers mete out of those six thin strings.

The past couple of years have brought its ups and downs with mine and Jacob’s relationship.  I’ve been madder at him than I ever imagined possible and prouder of him than I ever knew imaginable.  Voltaire tells us “with great power comes great responsibility.”  I would agree, but would add with great talent comes great responsibility as well.  Jacob taught himself how to play the guitar and just about every stringed instrument he could get his hands on.  He also taught himself to sing.  Jacob is one of those blessed individuals with an innate talent for music, able to play most anything by ear.

I’ve been proud of his ability. . .even in awe of his raw talent and I’ve tried to push, prod and mold him into what I thought would be best for him {college. . .school band. . .college. . .did I mention college?}.  It’s not until I got out of the way and allowed Jacob to choose his own path that I saw him really shine and thrive.   He now plays several times a day for hospice agencies bringing love, laughter and glorious music to those who could use a bit of cheer.  It is not the life I originally envisioned for him; however, it is the life I am so incredibly proud of him for creating.


This post was inspired by 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino, a novel about hope, love, and music in snow covered streets of Philadelphia. Join From Left to Write on August 28 we discuss 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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For more on the author please visit The World of Marie-Helene Bertino