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a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

HAPPINESS IS AN ACCORDION


SLICE OF LIFE TUESDAYS are hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

This week I am dog-sitting at my mom’s house.  My husband has fierce allergies to dogs, which makes it easier to bring my hypo-allergenic poodle-mixed mutts to Mom’s house to hang out with her hyper-allergenic coonhound mutt than it would be to bring her dog over to our house.

Although my mom no longer lives in a house that was ever home to me, there are traces of my childhood tucked into corners, resting on shelves, lingering in the air. 

Mom crouches down and lugs the heavy accordion case out of the crawlspace and into the wide-open space of the rec room.  I stand at the crawlspace door, too afraid to venture into the musty darkness, trying to stay out of the way while remaining part of the action. 

Rebecca and I giggle in anticipation.  We are waiting for the accordion to be lifted from its case.  Black and white keys shine with a slick elegance.  Mom’s name marches down the front—each letter outlined in glittery jewels.  We hold ourselves back, watching while her fingers find the strap and wiggle their way into place, while her shoulders adjust to its weight, while she fusses through pages of sheet music to find the right song to awaken the proud instrument from its sleep.

Within seconds our giggles turn into belly laughs.  There is something about the jovial sound of the bellows, the peppiness of the polka tune, that urges our laughter to bubble over.  

We are not exactly laughing AT Mom, nor are we laughing WITH her.  We gently tease, enjoying the sound while mocking its oblivious gleefulness. 

Mostly, though, we are concentrating on holding ourselves back long enough to feign an interest in the instrument, while our true cause for celebration lies in wait: the empty accordion case.

The case is just the right size for rolling myself up and tucking myself inside.  The lining is just soft enough to tickle my cheek when I brush against it, just fluffy enough to tuft up when I gently pull it through my fingers, just musty enough to fill my nostrils up with the crawlspace scents of Christmas decorations and forgotten toys.  The cover flap fits over me like a snug little blanket.  I could spend hours tucked inside the bottom half of the case, squealing in pretend fear when Rebecca teases me by threatening to close the lid. 

When she loses interest in this game, I beg her to really close me inside the accordion case, really latch it up, really tip it on its side. This is enough to keep her interested.  When the case is laid back down and reopened, I peek over at Mom to make sure we haven’t disturbed her from her accordion-fueled escape.  Her eyes focus on reading the music.  Her right hand struggles to remember its way across the keys.   Her left fingers strain to find chords as her arm extends and retracts.  And all the while, the accordion chugs out its happiness in funny bursts, singing the spunky tune of our family, of being together.

5 comments:

  1. I love the way you wrote this post...taking us back to moment in your childhood.
    And that last line...powerful, wonderful, simplifying into a few words what the whole slice was trying to say. Love it.

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  2. Love it! Happiness in spunky bursts, singing the tune of our family- such a wonderful line, wonderful sentiment. I think it is so funny to picture you begging your sister to close the case!

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  3. I guess it is unanimous, that final line is a treasure, Christy. I love the memory kept by you & your sister. Your mom must be around my age. I had a cousin who played the accordion & I remember he got it our when we visited & played for us. It was very popular during that time period.

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  4. Reading this post made me realize that this is the first time in 35 years that I wish I had not donated my accordion to a church in Aurora. I could use that happy sound; it's just not the same on a piano. The best I can do is dig out a CD of Frankie Yankovich. The final line is good, but the line I lift is this: "while she fusses through pages of sheet music to find the right song to awaken the proud instrument from its sleep." Only one who plays (or lived with one who played) would be able to craft a line of power to bring the squeezebox to life.

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  5. Precious memories. Love how you captured them! So sweet.

    Made me think about my dad. It is one of the instruments he played for years as a minister of music.

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