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Broken November 17, 2008

Posted by markgeil in Family.

This is Rebekah.


The one in the middle, being goofy. Rebekah is seven years old, the youngest of our three girls. She is smart and beautiful and so quirky she makes us all laugh every day. And, for a time this weekend, she was utterly crushed and broken-hearted.

There’s this game we have for our Playstation called Karaoke Revolution.


That’s my nephew Joshua playing along with Hannah, except that he’s singing into a light saber. Go figure.

It’s a singing game with little bars that show you the notes you’re supposed to sing, and a little arrow that shows your actual pitch. We are a rather competitive lot, so we quite enjoy the aspect of the game that “scores” your singing based on how closely you match the pitch. The game even responds to how well you’re doing: more animated people show up to watch, the crowd starts clapping and dancing, and the house starts-a-rockin’.

We have five different versions of this game. They’re worth mucho moolah on e-Bay, but we shall not part with them. Karaoke night at the Geils’ is too much fun. We have a country version, and a version that lets you sing and dance at the same time, and our most recent version, the American Idol edition.

In the American Idol version, you don’t just get a score, you can choose to be “judged” after your song, with the actual voices of Randy and Simon from the TV show. Paula was apparently not available, so they replaced her with “Laura”.

Back to the story. Karaoke night was rolling along. Amy and Hannah nearly blew out the speakers with their vociferous take on Independence Day. (“Let freedom RINNGGGGG!!!) I took on Johnny Cash on Walk the Line. Sarah was over on the couch, reading a book. Tough to get that Sarah off the couch when she has a new book in her immediate vicinity. Rebekah even joined in the fun on several duets, and posted her first ever really good scores.

See, Rebekah’s at a disadvantage because she doesn’t know the songs as well, and she’s still kinda figuring out her singing voice. She’s in her school chorus this year, and even played the starring role of the Little Bell in The Little Bell that Couldn’t Ring. She was doing well on Karaoke Night and having fun, so we thought nothing of it when she asked to play in the real American Idol mode, with the judges.

She chose to sing Unwritten, and she did a pretty good job. She struggled through the verses a bit, but they’re tough and she doesn’t know them very well. After the song, animated Randy came on and was all negative. That happens sometimes. The system uses combinations of recorded phrases from the judges, and sometimes you just get all bad ones. I assumed “Laura” would be nicer, but she was just as mean, and even declared that she didn’t even like the song in the first place! Finally, animated Simon came on and just lambasted the performance, as he is wont to do. We turned to Rebekah, who sat with her mouth agape, and told her it was really good, and that’s just how the judges work sometimes. She didn’t say anything, and for a few long seconds I wondered if she was really horrified or if she was just playing along, faking a look of offense. She’s a nut and she would do that. But no, those few long seconds passed and then the first tear rolled down her cheek. When the sobs could no longer be contained, she just physically broke down in a heap, the very picture of a broken spirit.

Our hearts broke with her. Amy and Rebekah’s sisters rushed to her side to console her. I got angry at the game and myself for not shutting it off and letting all those mean words keep coming. And poor Rebekah just sobbed.

We doted on Bek and encouraged her the rest of that night, but I have scarcely stopped thinking about it since. I’m a third child like her, and the youngest is always called “the baby”, but this was the first time I really felt like Rebekah was my “baby” — maybe a little more sensitive than the rest, maybe even a little more fragile. And my baby had been hurt. I was even up at 4:30 the next morning, thinking about what to do next. Was she just going to blow this off and forget it happened, or had she been “scarred for life”? The last thing I would want is for a dumb game to make her afraid to sing in public or somehow dampen her vibrant and jovial spirit. I thought about whether it would be better to not talk about the game for a while, or get right back at it the next day and keep working on that song until the judges were nice to her. I’m still not sure what would be best.

I suppose that getting your feelings hurt is part of life, and it builds character and all, but that was my baby! And I let it happen! Now I simply pray that this hurt, however small or great it is to Rebekah, does somehow build character, that it can be… oh, what’s the theological word? That it can be redeemed.



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