Great stories sometimes pop up in the most unexpected places. (See an earlier post for more examples.)
One of the great privileges I’ve had over the last year and a half is to play my violin on a semi-regular basis for a local assisted living center. The audience, as you might expect, is always very receptive, and the excellent acoustics at this particular center are alluring to me. Playing music for the residents at Christmas time is especially rewarding. Caught up in the emotion of the holiday when I was there this month, I looked around at the weathered faces gazing attentively and expectantly up at me, there in the lobby, near the end of my performance, and I decided to share something special. I acknowledged that while not everyone believes in God, for me there is no doubt, when I ponder on the abilities He gives us as musicians, and the awe-inspiring music composers are inspired to create. There has to be a higher power behind such beauty.
Hearts were tender that evening. Following the performance, many came up to thank me for my gift.
But as I looked around, there was a particular face I was missing. I couldn’t recall this particular resident’s name, so I couldn’t inquire after her specifically, though the attendant mentioned that they had had an increase in deaths in recent weeks. I sincerely hope this lady’s time on this earth isn’t over yet! Perhaps she was just tired and unable to attend. But at any rate, I missed her. And not just because she was all smiles whenever I saw her in the audience, or because she had been to most of my other performances, listening with rapt attention, but because she had made me laugh out loud with her childhood violin story. For me, it all began with another performance:
Around the time I first started playing hour-long concerts at Our House in Tooele, I decided to get to know the residents a little bit before diving into my solo performance. So, among other get-to-know-you questions, I asked if anyone in the audience happened to play the violin. One lady enthusiastically raised her hand and looked at me so intensely, I admit it threw me off guard, and suddenly, I was nervous. What if she had been a virtuoso in her day? I was careful to play extra well, with conscientious attention to my shifts and extra feeling for the next hour, primarily for her sake.
After the performance, she came up to congratulate me. And she told me her story. “I used to play the violin!” she said (as if I could have forgotten). “But one day, my violin went missing. My dad was upset, but for the longest time, we never did discover where it went. Then, many years later, my older sister admitted that she had sold it to a local pawn shop to get money to pay for a dress for her school dance!”
“Oh my goodness!” I reacted, sympathizing, as I’d also had a violin stolen once. “I’m so sorry!” She accepted my condolences with a pat on my arm.
After the next performance I gave, I found out there was more to the story. She shared with me the same explanation of her violin gone missing, but with an unexpected twist. After the part about her sister taking her violin and selling it, this dear lady leaned forward and whispered, “I was so grateful to her. I wasn’t very good [at the violin]! I never had to play it again!”
My outburst of laughter was comprised mostly of surprise (and also a little relief that I didn’t have to worry about trying to impress her more than the others. I was also laughing at my own silliness that that had been my focus the last time.) And, if I think about it, I probably also laughed with understanding. Who hasn’t sounded awful on their instrument to some degree, at some point? And who wouldn’t welcome at least a temporary excuse to get out of practicing?
I’ve grown to appreciate my time at this marvelous facility—for the acoustics, yes; for the presence of a doting and wise audience, true; but now, my appreciation has expanded from hearing one tiny honest and hilarious story.