When I was 11, my grandpa gave me a ukulele for Christmas. And I’ve been thinking more about that uke lately. When the Covid pandemic shut down my beloved dancing, I thought the pause would be brief but… I WAS WRONG! Ballroom has been my hobby, my social outlet, and my love for a long time, and since I won’t be seeing the dance floor any time soon, this void needs to be filled. Here’s a pandemic option I’m considering: ukulele lessons. I can sit 6 feet from my teacher and no one else would be in the room. But can I learn to play an instrument at my age? Hmmm, I did play the bass violin when I was 10!
In 5th grade, the music teacher told me to pick an instrument. There was no choice. For some bizarre reason, I pointed to the bass violin that stood over in the corner. It didn’t seem to matter that it stood a foot taller than me. Wait, maybe that’s why I picked it! Oh, the stories my mother would tell of schlepping that thing back and forth so I could practice at home. Evidently, just getting it in the back seat of the car was tricky, not to mention wrestling it in and out of the zippered cloth case. And, not to mention those ear-splitting chords I screeched every day in the living room. What I wouldn’t give to hear the “discussion” my parents must have had about my choice of instruments! I’m sure the amusement of watching my 10-year-old arm reach up to that first fret did take some of the sting out, though.
Highlight: Our elementary school band played Pomp and Circumstance at the 8th grade graduation that year. My parents took this as a great honor and beamed from the gallery. Did I mention my dad was a piano player and once had a small band that played around clubs in San Francisco? He no doubt thought this was the beginning of a shared interest in music. Sorry, Dad.
Why my grandpa would give me a ukulele of all things was a mystery. This instrument wasn’t on my radar in any way. I’m guessing it was his way of stimulating my musical interest beyond the piano lessons he was giving me at the time. Besides, in his mind I’d already shown an interest in stringed instruments the year before! He was a passive man who would not have had this “discussion” with me. Sadly, the significance of the gift went right over my head so it eventually got stashed in the closet… for later.
Can a childhood memory get me through the pandemic?
Fast forward 9 years to college. In my second year, I resurrected that ukulele and bought some sheet music in the hope of entertaining society sisters. But after the required 50 rounds of “Me and My Gal” and the like, my uke went back to the memory box. Sorry, Grandpa.
But don’t lose hope. When we moved 6 years ago, this little gem popped up yet again. This time I brought it out of hiding and have been looking at it ever since. Hmmm. There it is, in the back of the bookself, staring me in the face… waiting.
It’s not that I don’t like music, I love it. I’ve always been awed by what musicians can do and never ever thought I could learn this precious skill. However, these days my ukulele is calling louder, “Take me! Take me!” Or maybe it’s my grandpa trying to save my sanity during lockdown.
Weeded out this week: Cobwebs on old memories! Maybe you CAN teach an old dog new tricks — dust off that ukulele and USE it!