Ok, I know y’all might be tired of my ish, (I know I certainly am in a way) but some of my besties need to come fetch me, right now!
I came home yesterday, exhausted and hurting. I’ve not been sleeping well and the radio frequency ablation I had for my back has worn off. I was returning from a two hour drive to and from my dentist, and not happy with the prognosis. Hurting, grumpy, and resenting entropy and the capitalist system that profits from it, I wanted very much to walk into my house, freshen up, and get in bed.
But as I approached the door, to my surprise, there was very large box blocking the entry. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I thought it might have been delivered to the wrong house and my annoyance grew at the prospect of either finding the owner or arranging a return. Either way, I was going to have to haul it into the house, so I put my purse inside, metaphysically girded my loins and went back to take a look. It was indeed addressed to me, so I proceeded to tote it in. With Mothers Day approaching, I wondered if it could be a surprise present from family or friends.
Upon inspection I saw it was from Goodwill in Washington State, so now I was confused and curious, thinking that one of my gardening buds must have seen something I’d like or needed. I know no one in Washington, so my mind filled in the blanks.
I’m befuddled, but as it’s more awkward than heavy, I bring it in to an area where I can cut it open, sat down with my trusty razor to find what appeared to be a suitcase- an old, weird suitcase.
I was intrigued, but also nervous, quickly running through possible murderous enemies from my past who might have access to products used in chemical warfare and a hatred long term and deep enough to have found my address, and packaged it. Happily, I could think of no enemies, and certainly none with backgrounds in chemistry, espionage, or murder. At this point I will admit to having read too many mysteries and watched too many procedurals in my lifetime, as well as possessing a ridiculous imagination that often causes me to laugh at its determinedly intricate plots. I do crack myself up most days.
Reassured, my curiosity got the better of me and with a bit of difficulty, I opened the case to find: an autoharp!!!!!!!!
At first totally bemused and bewildered-wondering who would have sent this strange instrument- I then remembered that middle of the night some weeks ago when I found myself pricing autoharps online. I’d been thinking about things I enjoyed before my marriage that I might want to try again, and yes, it seemed like a great idea to buy an instrument I haven’t played in more than a generation and with which I was never especially proficient, so that when my friends and I all gather in Charlottesville or one of their farms, we can porch-sit and sing, and I’ll have a portable instrument! 😳
I want to disavow any knowledge of the aspect of self that visualized that scene, but I can’t. I recognize the desire to be with my dearest friends and recreate a version of our Christmas sing alongs, the always hilarious versions of Broadway shows that helped us blow off steam during graduate school, or the many songs we’d spontaneously sing, often to highlight parts of a conversation. The autoharp was under $100, so if it’s in good shape, that’s a bargain, but do I actually see myself playing it regularly? Who knows.
I don’t know who I’m becoming as a recent widow in a new state. Almost every part of my body hurts, I’ve come to pretty much hate the species of which I am part as the world is increasingly frightening and made unlivable via human greed and stupidity. Yet, apparently some part of me thinks an autoharp will help, and you know what? That’s fine. I don’t smoke, rarely drink, and have no friends anywhere nearby. My husband is dead and my body aches: if an autoharp affords any comfort or allows me to concentrate on music, this is a good thing. This was my first middle of the night purchase, and I intend for it to be the last, but now I do have a portable instrument, so there’s that. Move over, Dolly Parton!
But gentle readers, aside from a couple of folk era tunes I might remember, autoharp doesn’t really lend itself to the songs we generally sing, although it could be a creative addition to South Pacific. I can honestly connect to my mother’s “country girl” roots and her familiarity with the autoharp and Southern Appalachian music through the workers and their kids who came down to Fayetteville for work when she was young. She respected Pete Seeger and other folkies who’d supported her idol, Paul Robeson, and had none of the disdain for white folk music that was prevalent in our communities. She knew the history and connections between spirituals, blues, indigenous African and American music, folk, and rock. “All music is made by folks, all music is folk music” she would say. We watched Tennessee Earnie Ford and Patsy Cline as well as Nat King Cole on our console tv. My sentimental father sang plaintive Hank Williams songs as well as playing Fats Waller’s stride piano tunes. Steeped in the jazz of Sidney Bechet, Ella and Louie, we also listened to ancient 75s and 33s of Caruso and Martinelli, and Mahalia, and we all knew the words to every song in My Fair Lady. Music was music, and if we, or they liked it, my parents had it in the house.
So while there’s room in my psyche and life for an autoharp (I really wonder why I didn’t get the cello!?!) most importantly, and my reason for concern about that late night vision and the source of my plea for help is simple, silly, but to my randomly ridiculous mind, quite crucial: