There are times I look back at things in my life and think, “That’s not me anymore.” These are not bad things per se, though there are some of those too, but things I wish I hadn’t lost. These are forgotten pieces, crowded out by the ebbs and flows of life. Sometimes life gets so hectic that you don’t even have time to mourn the lost pieces of what makes you – you. Sometimes you even forget that they are lost, feeling only the weight of their absence, a dull longing for some inexplicit thing that is missing.
Some of my earliest memories are of music. They centered mainly around the record player and my mother’s violin. To be a hundred percent honest, probably one of my clearest music memories was a little birthday record on which a Happy Birthday song with my name inserted was sung by KISS. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea, but I did get it for my second or third birthday one year. Barring that instance and the sounds of Yellow Submarine wafting throughout the house, most of my memories are of Mom’s music. There was an eclectic selection of classical music, opera, John Denver, and Movie soundtracks – Annie, The Fox, and The Hound. But, my favorite music was the kind Mom would fiddle as she leaned against the arm of the couch, jigs, reels, and the ballads she would sing while she played. I could dance to them forever. She was my first violin teacher. She gave me “grandad’s violin.” She told me the story of how Grandad had given her the very first thing she ever held in her tiny newborn hand, his violin bow. When my son was born, she put the bow in his hand as well.
I loved the violin.
I played in school, at home, in concerts, and, finally, for competitions. It was the competition that soured me. Music wasn’t for that; it was for enjoyment. Then I only played at home. When my own children were small, I would sit on the arm of the couch and play the jigs, reels, and ballads I had heard as a child, and, like me, they would dance around the living room until they collapsed exhausted to the floor smiling. Life has taken some unexpected, difficult turns in the last few years, and a short time turned into a long time since the last time I picked up the violin to play. The other night I realized the unarticulated longing in my heart and picked up the case again. Gingerly I unzipped the cover, unclasped the latches, slid the lock to the right, and opened the case. Inside, right where I had left it, snug beneath the felt and velvet embroidered cover, resting in its long worn Kerry green crushed velvet case, was my violin. Taking out my mother’s pitch pipe, I placed it between my lips and blew three soft notes. I tried for the fourth sure that the damage my child had done to it years ago had lost the fourth note for good. Almost plaintively, the note rang out and compelled me to continue.
After tightening the bow and rubbing gold-flecked rosin on the strings, I began to tune the forgotten violin. Turning, pressing, plucking, playing, over and over until the notes were just right, I finally returned the violin to form. Bow on string, I pulled a long firm stroke across and began to run through scales.
Astonishingly, like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, those first few notes once again brought feet, eyes peering from the stairs and then from the hall. They gathered in the living room like they had as little children, faces beaming and asked for a song, and then another. My fingers were stiff at first but soon remembered their steps as they raced across the strings. The girls laughed and danced again, and I remembered the piece I’d lost.