When I was 15, my mother bought a used accordion at a consignment shop. She has always, at least for as long as I can remember, insisted that the accordion is like a one-man party band. In buying it, she was hopeful that one of her children or grandchildren would agree to learn how to play it, and, in case you haven’t guessed it yet, I turned out to be that child.
I won’t lie. I didn’t do it because I had some overwhelming desire to learn an instrument that would make me the butt of jokes from everyone around, including Gary Larson:
Yeah, that about sums up how I felt too. But, being the generally obedient daughter I was (what? I don’t front; I was a pretty good kid), I took the heavy black box and headed off to my lessons.
I was surprised at how not torturous they were. My teacher, Emily, was a very nice girl, who was only about two years older than I was, but was proficient in not only the accordion, but also the piano and the violin. She was very sweet, and a good teacher to boot.
Week after week someone drove me to my lesson, in good weather and in bad (and even when some hoodlums decided to use the car for snowball target practice, right Maureen?). I practiced my scales and learned how to time the ins and outs of the bellows. I even learned how to play a few fun songs. And then, I got to the end of where my little accordion could take me. It’s only a 12 bass. Accordions go up to 120 basses, so mine is a tiny one. So, the lessons stopped.
Basically, I stopped too. Oh sure, I’d pull it out every once in a while to entertain the littles (my nieces and nephews at that time), or for my mom, but that was about it. See, it never really became that party instrument my mom wanted it to be. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn to love it. On the contrary. I’m actually kind of proud of my hidden talent. It’s a bit quirky and not for everyone; so, a little like me.
Recently, a nephew asked me if he could borrow it, so he could teach himself how to play. I was happy to oblige, and went home to dig it out of the closet it normally calls home. Once I had it out, a pang of nostalgia struck and I started to play. It didn’t come back all at once, but after a few tries (which caused some kids to sit at my feet and listen happily and others to run and hide). I’m happy to say I managed to get through “Jingle Bells” after only 15 or 20 tries.
Before I put the old girl away, I took a final (not final, really, because he’s just borrowing it – I’m lookin’ at you, Dan) look at her. She’s quite a lovely little thing, covered in green swirly enamel, with hand painted flowers that have little pink rhinestones in the middle of them. The leather straps are worn, a little crumbly, and smell like winter. The dark green glittery enamel on the black keys is chipping off. Her grill is in desperate need of refinishing, but I can’t bring myself to change it. She’s obviously old, but also loved.
It will never be that one-man band party time machine my mom hoped for, but I’m still glad I learned it. I hope my mom is too.