Once David’s cousin, Terri (a professional cellist) advised me that if you have to be poor, be instrument poor. I’m not certain when she offered this observation. It could have been as my son, Paul, built his monster drum kit. Perhaps she made the statement the winter I found a sitar for David’s Christmas gift. Whenever another guitar or bass found a home in our house, I remembered her words.
The advice struck me as funny at the time. I thought, “But how can you be poor if you have music in your life?” Over the years, I’ve lost count of the instruments that live in the different rooms of our home. My old piano graces the living room. Every time I finger the keys, I chide myself for not having it tuned. We have a banjo, a dulcimer, a mandolin, and a harp because David can learn anything with strings. Paul’s original keyboard still sits in David’s office along with the acoustic twelve string. We have the Peavy amps and cabinet one of David’s friends gave to him along with a Vox.
Music of all kinds pulsed from our home. At the age of two, Paul asked for a drum kit. We bought him a plastic one, but he played it like the real thing. He asked for drums almost every year, but instead we bought a midi keyboard, and Paul took lessons. That summer, he asked for drums again. David picked up a guitar for him, and then a bass. Finally, the summer Paul turned thirteen, we cleared out the smallest bedroom and bought him first kit. Within weeks, he wanted to expand to a double bass kit, and the room exploded with toms, snares, and cymbals. Practice always happened at our house because it’s pretty hard to move a large kit around. That’s when Paul decided to pick up other kits for “travel.” Every dollar he earned went back into his instruments. Before long, Paul dusted off the keyboard and fiddled with recording his music in GarageBand. Eventually, Paul pulled the earlier gifts of the guitar and bass from their cases, and he learned these instruments, too. Today, he dedicates his life to composing, playing, and producing music.
Although the men in my life are musicians, I’ve never done much more that play a little piano. I’m not talking Jane Austen’s “little piano” for those women could play more than one or two fumbled songs. I tried guitar, but I’m left handed and unless we restrung one . . . As for the drums? I like to tell people that I’m totally left side dominant—I write with my left hand, chew on the left side of my mouth, listen with my left ear, kick with my left foot. The right side of my body drags along only because I cannot discard it. Having the coordination for drums? Beyond any fantasy!
I don’t play any instruments, but music plays an important role in my life. Sometimes when I write, it’s as though the words sing to me. With poetry, the notes float there along with the words. If I’m writing a chapter, I never see the words on the page, but instead view the scene as it plays out before me, I hear the nuances of the characters’ voices, and I pick up the subtle soundtrack of my prose.