“Oh play me that mountain music….like Grandma and Grandpa used to play…” I love that song. Alabama can sure put a hop in your step! I am sure their fiddle player started playing fiddle before the age of thirty-eight! But it is never too late to pick up an instrument. “I have zero musical talent,” I hear from other people. No excuse! Musical abilities are variable but everyone has the music in them and can play instruments. I have been taking violin…ahem…fiddle lessons for seven months now. It is so much fun. My teacher is a saint. Perhaps he wears ear plugs. My first few months sounded like the stereotypical small child practicing. Screech, screech, screech, screech went the bow on the strings. Dancing not, tripping yes. My turning point was in September when I begged for Christmas music. Neil is trying to teach me proper Celtic fiddle, but you know, once we pass August all my thoughts are on Christmas! Jingle Bells was the song that made me “get it”. Still screechy but producing genuine sound, I bowed through several Christmas tunes. The sound of the music soothing to me so long as no one was home. Oddly enough, I can play in big crowds, or by myself, not with just a few people meandering about listening to me practice.
We are enchanted by good music. Doug and I quizzed the children growing up, not on algebraic expressions or spelling words, but on “who sang it?” “What play is this from?” The kids shocked people in grocery stores shouting out Elvis, or Beach Boys, Dean Martin, Def Leopard when asked, “Who sings it?” They were especially schooled in Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., and Doris Day. Doug had them recognizing Chicago, Bob Dylan, and Earth Wind and Fire.
Andrew picked up his first instrument in grade school, the French horn. Not sure why he chose it, but he learned to read basic music, did a few performances, and enjoyed it. Then his mind turned to something else, a guitar. Doug and I found a music shop that had set up at the mall just for Christmas and Christmas morning Andrew received his wish, a pink guitar. Yes, our son wanted a pink guitar. Secure early on, that was his favorite color! He played and played and taught himself how to master the guitar. Then he wanted a banjo. He taught himself the banjo and would walk around the neighborhood playing for public works employees and park goers. He was about fifteen at the time. Pirate earring, dreadlocks, a desire to open a coffee and cigar bar in St. Thomas and homeschooled. That child had all day to wander the neighborhood bringing smiles to everyone’s faces. He taught himself how to play seven instruments.
I am not so lucky! I started playing the piano at eight years old. My mother was my teacher and a great one at that. I took piano in high school. I took it in college. Do you think I could sit down and play you a song? Heck no. Use it or lose it and my memorization skills seem to be lacking these days! Doug has to work at it too. To his utmost dismay, when he got his mandolin for Christmas, I think he half expected to be like Andrew and just start playing! After three lessons he gave it up for a while. I love the sound of the tremolo the mandolin makes. The music from the mandolin, advanced or not, brings me such great happiness. Doug has been inspired by my fiddle lessons and has recently picked up the mandolin again. Perhaps we will go on the road. A Ma and Pa Spectacular! Or we’ll just play in our living room for brave friends. We could charge admission.
Our house was always filled with music. Emily played the violin and the ukulele. Shyanne, not interested in instruments, had her own instrument, her voice. She sings like an angel. At ten years old she was belting out tunes most adults couldn’t touch in karaoke bars across the city. All three kids could sing so wonderfully. We would take them to bars, yes, to let them sing. Doug said it was homeschooling. Music and Social Problems. It was a great time. I miss it. This transition time has been rough on me as a mom. I did not expect the kids to grow up. My teen mommy stays with her boyfriend most of the time because he is allergic to cats and nine of them (who love him and want to sit on his face) are a bit much. They want to get married. Shyanne, who is 99.9% of the time with her boyfriend, working, or at school will be eighteen this year. Andrew, ever present at dinner each night, will probably tire of his mom and dad soon enough. He is saving up to get out of town and move back to Denver. The music seemed to me to be dying. I have been crying up a storm trying to get used to it. I know nothing other than being a mom. Since I was eighteen years old, my whole world has been my children and I do not know who I am as a person anymore. So, the new stage in our life is this: Who is Doug and Katie? Who are we if we are not parents of small children? How do you fill an empty house?
Well, to start with, we are going to fill it with mountain music. Fiddles, and guitars, voices raised in song, friends that want to play as well. Mandolins and tambourines. Life is short, fill it with music! (And for heaven’s sake, go buy an instrument and start playing!)