Friday, March 20, 2020

SOLSC '20 Day Twenty: Notes from the past

This house has a musical history
The boombox playing while we newlyweds painted the walls and moved in furniture
Belting out songs over soapy sinks of dishes
A bass guitar and amp rarely touched, then relegated to spaces under the bed and in the           closet, gathering dust

Then the singing of lullabies, heart rhythms reinforced in mother's sway of hips as babies           were rocked to sleep
There were cassette tapes and CDs and videotapes
Disney sing-alongs with the bouncing Mickey
A plastic shoebox of percussion--bells, rhythm sticks, sandblocks
Old recorders to toot out tunes
The fancy Neurosmith toy that made composers of us all, turning blocks this way and that

The babies turned into children
Out came the old Casio keyboard with colored dots and handmade song cards, from my               teaching days
Grandpa thinking he's funny, buying the daughter a kiddie drum set
Summer music was planned with listening pleasure in mind, designated genres each week
Art Day at the Park and Symphony Square downtown with the instrument petting zoo, 
          mariachi and folk, silly kids' songs and cello
And singing, always singing, to the radio, CDs, because we were making nachos

Real instruments appeared in our home
A children's guitar at Christmas, unasked for and barely touched
An electronic keyboard as wide as the fireplace
The children preferred instruments to voice
The daughter persisted with percussion, a bell kit, sticks and mallets, summer camps of             rhythm
The son preferring sporadic piano lessons with a kindly neighborhood grandma

The percussion section grew 
With a full drum set, a djembe, an Irish hand drum, a three-and-a-half octave marimba
A trio of girls sometimes performing in the daughter's room, playing cover songs
We added brass with the son's French horn, rented from school, its pure notes wafting from his bedroom to the ticktock of the metronome

The marimba went to college 
Drums were played during spring and summer and winter breaks, disembodied riffs
The son asked for his own French horn, bought the winter before it, too, went off to                  college with the keyboard, where they are still played
The daughter now drums in Japan, a hobby shared with her guitar-playing husband

The only music in the house now is the radio and CDs, played through speakers the                     husband keeps tweaking with
He's talking about getting an acoustic bass, to add to the collection
And I'll keep singing, always singing...though maybe not this week.

This writing was inspired by Fran Haley's blog post "I Will Love You Forever".  Children's musical experiences are so pure and precious; I miss those sounds.  I have not played any music at home save for the occasional shared YouTube video during this Spring Break, preferring the silence; perhaps it's the pall of COVID-19 that doesn't lend itself to pop tunes or songs about nachos.


  1. Thank you for this tour of your musical history. It brings back so many of my own associations w/ music, but I don’t sing or play an instrument. My children both played violin for a while and then trumpet. We had more music in the house then and when I was young than now. I love thinking about music as what stitches a family together, which is a take-away from your post, and the poetry format strikes the right note given its musicality. Lovely post. I’m thinking about music and songs I want to hear and sing, even a little off key.

  2. How wonderful is this - marking the stages of your life by music and instruments! It's a wonderful thing to pass on a musical legacy. Love your last line - "always singing but maybe not this week." I, too, prefer the silence. And the birds, beyond my window - we'll get beyond the ripple of COVID-19 but seriously I won't miss songs about nachos, regardless. Oh - and I am delighted you took inspiration from my post! For the record: Granddaddy bought that piano for Grandma during WWII. She called it her "most prized possession." I don't play but, after her death, my youngest son took it up and is a music minister today. She'd be overjoyed. Again - a musical legacy. Priceless.

  3. Wow again. A very nice tale of music in the lives of four people. As a young boy I took piano lessons from a neighbor Lady (British). All fingers off of the keys between notes. Then on to the Alto Sax. In Jr. High if an error was made while playing, the music teacher would yell put down that instrument, you don't deserve to play it, leave my class. Outside of class I took lessons at a local music shop. That shop had a marching band which I joined and as I recall often we got to march behind the mounted Sheriff Posse which meant we often stepped and occasionally slipped in horse droppings. I quit the sax when I started high school. One quick story about the Jr. High music teacher. Ritchie Valens (La Bamba/Donna) was also a student at Pacoima Jr. High and a student in the music class. After he became famous (one year after leaving the Jr, High) he volunteered to perform at the school. He said his crew would need some time to set up so how about 8AM on a Friday. I believe Ritchie was specific on the time because he knew the music teacher would have the senior band in the theater at that time each Friday. So, Mr. Graver taps his stick on his music stand and Ritchie replays with 6 chords on the guitar. Graver does it again, the same result. After the third attempt with the same results, Mr. Graver dismisses the senior band and Ritchie has a big smile on his face!!! See even your Ole Man has some good musical memories. Love Ya's, Dad/Grandpa Jim.