Tomorrow is my birthday & my husband wants to give me the gift of music.
Kurt has this thing where he can’t actually wait on the day of an event to give me presents. My birthday, our anniversary, Christmas: whatever special occasion it is he insists on me opening presents a day early. So today I open one smooshy package that is a shirt from Picker’s Supply along with a brochure that reads “After the Sale. . . Service Contract.”
My first thought is “Oh, shit.”
First, let me say I am blessed with a husband who believes that I have more creativity than I know what to do with & is constantly nudging me out into the world. I love him for this (among other things); for thinking I can take advantage of opportunities right in front of me despite the fact that I often think otherwise. Most of the times, it’s related to writing & these moments feel more like having your own personal coach telling you to dig deep or to play the whole court.
Then there are times when his enthusiasm throws me for a complete loop. Like when he gave the editor of Virginia Neighbors my email & told her I was brimming with ideas. Or (in a non-artistic inspired bout of helpfulness) when he bought me a bike after I mentioned how wedded I was to mine as a child. Or now, when it appeared that he had bought me a guitar.
“Um, what is this?” I said in between high-pitched bursts of nervous laughter. I haven’t played a musical instrument since the four mandated years of music education in my school system. (All three of middle school & freshman year of high school.)
“Well, remember that conversation we had about music?” (I strain my brain. I vaguely remember. . . something. . . talking about being able to read music. . . how it’s like losing a language that you don’t use, like the Spanish I took for five years. A general conversation about high school maybe?) “When I asked you if you’d ever want to learn to play the guitar or something, you were like ‘Eh.’ Like you’d maybe consider it. So I thought, here’s a great opportunity!”
We go to Picker’s Supply a few hours later, “just to look around.” I’m one of those people who, when they walk into a specialty store & know nothing about the merchandise, try to keep a low profile as possible so the salesperson won’t try to pressure me into a sale. Wearing a bright orange T-shirt with a vintage Dracula poster on it does not help you in these situations. The guy behind the counter looks me over the second I walk in & starts imitating Bela Lugosi. Fuck.
So, we’re walking around the store, Kurt watching me eagerly for my reaction. I feel like the biggest idiot ever. I’ve done this; I’ve played this browsing layperson/dreaming wannabe scene out in different ways. I once dated an “aspiring musician” who sincerely believed “Head Like a Hole” was written by Devo. He dragged me to this huge music store in Richmond where he spent three hours playing with the guitars & I ended up talking to the security guys about local tattoo parlors. When I was still in high school, after I stopped being in the school band, my mother bought me & my sister guitars in an effort to inspire us to continue pursuing music. I took the thing out of the box once or twice, idly plucked the strings, & then put it back under my bed. It was lost or thrown away or abandoned the next time we moved, along with my clarinet.
I’m thinking about all this when we come across a small section with fiddles. & something inside me falls a little bit in love; says, “well, wait a sec.” A bunch of angry, pushy thoughts immediately surround the happy little vibe. Violins & fiddles are expensive, more expensive than starter guitars & you have to start at a younger age. Fantasy writers like Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey always create these goofy, hyper-stylized female bards that play fiddles. Is that what you’re going to do, put on ribbons & become something out of a Ren Faire’s worst nightmare? Uncool & expensive & a waste of someone else’s teaching if you don’t practice.
Then I think, it is nice to consider learning something new on your birthday. Picker’s Supply is a quality store & active in supporting local talent, as well as teaching all who are willing to learn. I mean, it’s just not a typical Fredericksburg day if you don’t run into at least two or three people with their gig bags strapped to their backs, heading to or from lessons.
Not everyone plays a fiddle; guitars, dobros and mandolins are kind of obvious choices. Fiddles are part of the Appalachian sound, a carry-over from the Anglo tradition. Also, (yes, I’m about to invoke Anne Rice, pre-Born Again, mock me as you will) there is something to what Anne Rice says about the sound of a violin. “[T]hat was the power of the violin, that it sounded human in a way that we humans could not! It spoke for us in a way that we ourselves couldn’t.”
As we left the shop, I asked Kurt what he thought if I picked the fiddle over the guitar. He seemed a little disappointed, “I thought you could learn the guitar so you could sing along.” (My husband is constantly asking me to sing, despite the fact that I don’t do it all that well.) We walked in silence for a minute before he said, “It’s because you like the folk sound of it, don’t you? You want to join the next Celtic rock band.” My dreams don’t extend that far, but let’s just say the gift of music is definitely under consideration.