My Dad passed away in March 2009. For as long as I can remember he played the mandolin. Many of those years, as a youngster, I would hop up on the kitchen counter into the corner where the two came together and listen to him, my uncles and my aunts play and sing on Saturday nights. Of course, that was after we all took in the Grand Ole Opry program on TV. While all the other kids, and there were a bunch of us, ran off to play I was always hanging out to listen to the music. I was really quite shy as a youngster and although I wanted so badly to play guitar and sing, I just simply didn’t have the courage to ask anyone to teach me. I loved country music. I loved the twang of it and the songs that spoke of so much about life. I could picture myself on that Grand Ole Opry stage singing my heart out to a Patsy Cline or Kitty Wells song. Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette were two more of my favorites. The songs telling stories of such tragic heartache could bring me to almost tears and reached way down deep into my soul pulling at a heartache I had never understood. I identified with the singer and the songs as if I had been right there during each and every hopeless love loss or as if I were the bearer of the news that would tear their world apart. Yes, I loved it all. This love stayed with me throughout my life but I never did get a chance to do anything but listen. However, sometimes, if you wait and keep your dreams in your heart, things can change. About the same time I took up writing, I mean really writing for others to read, I also started singing, out loud. Like everything else I did, although I sang often, I kept it to myself. I didn’t sing if anyone could hear me or if I even suspected that anyone might be listening. Now though, music is a part of our lives. We have a “Music Room.” Well, sort of music room. I guess I should fill in a little here with how that came about. My husband, Steve, has always had guitars but they stood in the closet and it seemed he never had time to play. When we married, between the two of us, we had six kids in the house, his two three of mine, and our grand daughter. We also had numerous dogs and soon a small farm, with chickens, ducks, sheep, rabbits and oh, so much more through the years. Eventually Steve was working two jobs. By that time we had switched to horses and all the activities included with them. He called this time of our lives a “study in intensive manure management.” Once in a while he would drag one of his guitars out, sit on the edge of the bed and strum some part of some song and then put it away again. He often thought back to the day when, while working at a clothing store, he met Bonny Guitar and was actually offered a chance to go on the road and play bass with her band. Because of his situation at that time, he wasn’t able to take her up on it. I know he has dreamed of what it would have been like to tour the country and be in a band. I tried often to encourage him to get his guitar out and play. Still, he played about as often as I sang. Then, before my Dad passed away, he gave me his mandolin and I had decided I was going to learn to play it. That idea didn’t last long because my brother came to go through a few things after dad passed and said he wanted the mandolin. I didn’t argue. Not wanting to make a big deal out of it or cause hard feelings, I gave it to him. But I still wanted to learn and I bought myself another mandolin. So now I had to work at it, no excuses and if I was going to, so I thought, should Steve. Logically, my next thought was, if we were going to work at it we needed a place to keep our instruments handy. I looked at him one day and said, ” I need some help moving furniture.” Like he usually did, he pitched right in without question and helped me. Then it dawned on him that I was moving all the dining furniture out of the dining room and into the living room.
“What are you doing?” he finally asked.
“Well, I think we need a place to play our instruments so, I’m making one. Can you and I move the piano by ourselves?”
“Not easily, but we can if it’s not too far.” he replied
So with that we got the piano moved around the corner and into the dining area. We rearranged the stereo equipment, the record and CD cabinets, and brought in a couple of chairs, the kind you can sit on to play. It was almost done. We brought out the couple of old guitars and stands that we had and sat them among the chairs.
“TA DA!” I was overjoyed with myself . Then we actually started playing something every day. After all we had done, how could we not.
It was shortly after he retired and one day while out and about we went to the music store as I had picked up a saxophone for our grandson and it needed reeds. Just planning for his future in music, I said to myself. While I was getting the reeds, Steve busied himself looking at guitars. He really wanted a bass. His had been sold long before I came into his life. So I told him, I hadn’t gotten him his retirement gift yet as I wasn’t sure what was best. “What about a bass guitar?” I asked. “What about that “Fender” up there?”
“No, that’s too much money for one guitar. At my age, I don’t need that expensive guitar but how about this bass over here and then I could get this Telecaster too?” He was on a role and enjoying this moment to the max.
“Okay with me,” I said
“But I don’t have a bass amp, so maybe just the Tele for now. No bass today. ” he replied quietly, his face showing the disappointment behind his words.
“So how much is an amp? Let’s just do this and get one. I want you to be able to play music. You’ve wanted to all your life and it’s time for you to do something that has been in your heart to do.”
As I was speaking the salesman was rounding up amps for him to choose from and we walked out of that store that day with two very happy men grinning from the purchases made. Steve, thrilled with his retirement gifts and the salesman from the commission he would get for that sale. It should have been a pretty nice one.
We continued setting up our, so-called, “Music Room” both of us excited with each new idea. We made wall coverings to put hangers for the instruments on. We found a few more instruments for extremely good prices on some on-line auctions. I ran across a round back mandolin and managed to jump into the auction at the last-minute and get it for almost nothing. Just for fun we purchased an old bugle to add to the atmosphere of the room. Steve cut out music notes which I painted black and white to go with the rest of the decor in and we hung them around the guitars and mandolins. I had taken a picture of Dad’s mandolin which we hung center stage of everything else. Then, we played together, we sang and we were having fun. More guitars, a drum set and some antique instruments came as we developed our interests deeper into the music. The drums were for our grandson and this year he will be able to start lessons. I also picked up, over several months time, a ukulele for each of us ( that’s six to be exact) and I am determined to learn and teach this to the kids too.
Now, earlier I mentioned how things can change. That change came, for me, with all these instruments, the room change, and the desire to inspire my husband and grand kids. The real change came, not in our surroundings, but in me. I have opened more windows in my life. I am letting others see who I really am. We are now having a jam session at our house on Saturday nights. Friends come over and we play and sing. I’ve started taking mandolin lessons. Steve and I have also recently started going to the Senior Center. At first it was so he could play with the band there. Ah, but then, we sang. Now we go to an open mike on Wednesday nights where Steve has been playing the bass. But this coming week will be different. This coming week we plan to sing. We are almost ready. If my nerves don’t get the best of me we will do this. Never having been a very open person, dealing with anxiety most of my life, fear of crowds and numerous other things has kept me pretty much in the background of everything going on. But this week….if everything goes right, well, not if, because it’s going to go just fine. Putting this down on paper, having actually said it out loud, sorta seals the deal, right? I have to do this. I will do this, and although it’s not the Grand Ole Opry and I certainly cannot compare myself to Patsy or Tammy, I am singing, out loud and others will be listening. It’s taken many, many years for me to fulfill this dream but I figure, it’s never to late to do something that has always been in your heart to do. Of course, my suggestion to others would be to find out why you aren’t fulfilling your dream and make some changes while you are young. Had I known the things I know now, I sure would have and who knows, could I have been up there on that stage? I’ll never know but what I do know is I am enjoying myself and being myself. Not only that, other people are liking what I am doing but more important than anything else, I like what I am doing and who I am becoming.
Part of our “Music Room” including the picture of Dads mandolin, hat & clock. My “go to” Mandolin is the white Washburn.
I’m a little nervous, but anxious for Wednesday to come and see how this all turns out.
Wow, I may not be able to take another breath until it’s over.