Accordionist Angst

I began music lessons on April 9.  The good news was that I had talent and an ear for music.  The bad news was that I chose to learn the accordion…in the Year of our Lord 1961.

My father was delighted!!! An Accordion carried the melody…it was a REAL instrument.  So, at the age of nine and for the next seven years, I committed to lessons every Saturday.  What had begun as a means of fitting in (my best friend from third grade played accordion, too) eventually backfired; the Beatles arrived on the American scene in 1964.  Music was changing; cultural changes were “blowin’ in the wind” and by sixteen, I was beginning to realize: I was definitely outside my generation’s norm.  My “era” was quickly passing me by.  I would never actually “fit”.

I had made my choice.  My musical ability wowed the folks and their generation!  I could live with it; just another way of making people happy…no harm in that, I thought.  I would eventually sail through this rite of passage and become a normal, functioning citizen of society.

Gradually, I began to realize that there were some logical, though not very serious, side effects from having spent Saturdays with a keyboard during my early formative years.  So, I sought therapy as others my age did.  It was time to find myself.  I shared the following concerns with my therapist:

Make yourself comfortable, Annette.  What brings you in?

All in all, Doctor, I like to think of myself as a fairly average, well-adjusted individual.

What causes you to question yourself?

In hindsight, I can identify some terribly hurtful and/or embarrassing moments for me that started to domino once I committed to taking accordion lessons…

Tell me about it.

Well, Doctor, for example:

The day came to “pick” my own junior size accordion!  I had graduated from the very small, rented, marbleized red one, so I gravitated toward the black with the shiny silver trim! It was beautiful!   Immediately, I was reprimanded,   “What’s the matter with you?  The white and gold-trimmed accordions are for girls, Annette…” so, I chose the white one instead and said I liked it when I really didn’t.   I never confessed this until now, not even in confession.

Sounds like a simple case of Gender Confusion, Annette.  Go on…

Auditions were open the next year for our elementary school music.  I was very excited to tell our school’s music teacher that I already played accordion!  I would love to participate in his class.  When I shared this with him, he responded in no uncertain terms:  “We don’t allow accordions; you’ll drown out the orchestra! “  My fellow school mates laughed at me.

But my baby sister Winifred learned from my humiliation.  She was always daring, so she kept her mouth shut about her accordion experience, and two years later chose the violin; she successfully eased right on through the school orchestra application process.  Even our cousins were impressed and thought she was really cool, especially working with cat guts and all…

I see; so you were Shunned by Public School Music Teachers and Humiliated by Peer Pressure; please continue…

After a couple of years, Winifred exceeded my musical talents… the folks would later take my original instrument for her, but they promised me a larger accordion of my own.  Daddy came home one day and presented me with a very expensive but second hand full size accordion he’d purchased from one of his floor covering customers.  Apparently, their daughter didn’t want the instrument around anymore.  Her father claimed she hadn’t played it in several years.   I was now the proud new owner of this fancy, silver-trimmed, white accordion with their daughter’s name TINA emblazoned boldly down the front in silver lettering.  We were supposed to replace it (sniff..sniff) with my own name (sniff…) but we never did…

I understand, Annette…you were simply experiencing an early Identity Crisis; it’s very common.  Here’s some Kleenex…feel free to continue when you are ready…

Thank you, Doctor… (sniff…sniff…)   It wasn’t long before I began to realize that I had other talents my school friends didn’t.   Why, I could win at game shows, not just with my grade student aptitude (in the ninetieth percentile) but also with my secret arsenal of knowledge…

Secret arsenal?  Annette, what did you have in this knowledge bank of yours?

My best category was Polkas for $500.00.  What a thrill it was for me to take the lead, sitting at home and “name dropping” composer Strauss the Younger or recording artists The Andrews Sisters or the popular Beer Barrel Polka during an evening’s rerun!  What I didn’t tell them was that my worst category was Musicians from the Sixties. By the time I “discovered” Jerry Garcia, he was designing ties for Macy’s and very soon after, he WAS dead!  So didn’t that count?

Looks like our time is up for today, Annette…

Look Mom, No Hands!

Sometimes we moms wonder if all the repeated teachings we perform as loving parents are ever really understood; emphasis on ever.  During her upbringing, My Only received every family storyline and set of values, including the proper respect one should show for the colors.

At our next downtown parade, I arranged to take her along with her little buddy. The kids had great seats because I worked right on the parade route; I could have the two of them sit along the curb and enjoy the parade until my shift began. As each unit passed by, I made the two of them stand up if the particular club or service group had an American flag color guard.  I explained that we were showing respect for the flag and the military who had served under it by our standing quietly at attention.  By the time the parade ended two hours later, both children said they never wanted to go to another parade with me again; they were too tired from standing up so many times!!!

More often than not, children do understand when we least expect it; to our great joy, their comprehension is often greater than the initial credit we give them at so young an age.   Such was the case during a patriotic assembly at my daughter’s elementary school years ago.

The program was in full swing.  The next grade to enter was my daughter’s third grade class.  Nothing unusual; I saw that My Only was standing in line next to her best friend; both seemed ready and willing to participate.  We two mothers were sitting together, remarking how cute the girls looked, dressed in their Sunday best.  The girls filed onto the stage with their classmates.

It was then I took a double take and let out a small gasp!  I remained sitting, somewhat speechless. When I recovered enough to look at my friend, she knew immediately what had taken me by surprise.  We both began to smile, tempering the glee that we felt as we turned our attention again to the stage.

My Only was wearing her one pair of white gloves.  She was singing with all her heart, her true blue friend standing right by her side.  When the pledge was recited, the small, white clad hand held over her heart was even more visible!

I sensed neither pretense nor any foolishness from my little lady’s countenance that day.  She was a genuinely focused, good student. My friend remarked that it was obvious that my daughter had comprehended the desired sense of decorum all the teachers had tried to instill to the school children for this patriotic assembly. We agreed; My Only appeared to be somewhat of a trend-setter, seemingly poised and very much at peace with herself, having accessorized her own outfit.  This was all more than we could absorb; the giggling began and soon we moms were almost out of control, trying very hard to retain a bit of dignity ourselves!

To this day, I don’t believe either of us even remembers much of the assembly; but I can still remember my joy and delight at the sight of my daughter’s white gloved hands.



A morning not unlike before; except, that March day, I chose to sit

And in the sun clothe soul and mind amid the warmth before it quit.

My child was safe in school that day, her father having left for work;

So few quiet moments came those years wherein I enjoyed a welcome quirk.

From time to time, I glanced to see the seeds I’d sown before the spring.

Now, poppies ‘gainst the fence did bloom; their grey-green leaves held bright orange bling!

Returning to my book, I reread a line or two, but growing satisfaction brought me ‘round

Back to the poppies’ brilliant hue! Ah…my eyes drank in each colored mound.

The news was brief; enough to break my solitary, peace-filled morn.

Our president had been shot. Again, a sordid mind our country torn.

More details came to further invade my peaceful place; in seconds, my repose fled.

Instead, the poppies ‘gainst the fence foretold to me a poignant dread.

I blinked back tears…please, please let me hold the morning’s warmth still cross my feet!

Beneath my chair the soaked-in sun released its ebbing, remnant heat.

Seasons passed. Our leader lived. The Cold War ended in mere peaceful pretense.

My daughter grown, I’d moved on too. I left those poppies ‘gainst the fence.

Another yard, a new bedding plan; again a chance to sow and till,

Leaving history’s sadder days behind so new buds might stave off current ills.

Today, I seek comforting bling.  My heart cries for its familiar sense!

Elusive still but, now and then, repose returns from seeded poppies ‘gainst the fence.


TRIBUTE – 100th Anniversary Year of Ronald Reagan’s Birth.

Holy Sundaes

Sunday evenings had taken on an entirely new perspective with the addition of evening service and a trip to Dairy Queen.  The calories I was consuming I rationalized were for a good cause.  Since the pastor and his family would be leaving for missionary work in the very near future, I felt the added pounds were a small sacrifice in lieu of the good friendships and the co-worker I would be losing.  My Only treated me on occasion; thus, these ninety-nine cent sojourns afforded many opportunities for good feelings, not the least of which were a little daughter learning to give. The pastor’s daughter, always the direct, no-nonsense type, informed us in her off-the-cuff manner that she’d rather live with My Only in the event that the need ever arose for an alternate guardian.  Her Sunday school paperwork was filled with circles indicating her sincere gratitude for God’s gifts, i.e. sisters (she had none) and for brothers (she had two); the latter remained un-circled and was plainly missing any penciled marks or grateful afterthoughts.

Obviously, Sundays would never be the same without this pastor’s brood.  Between rocket launches during hymns, one of the son’s signaling his pastor dad that he had only four minutes left to speak, the older sibling hitting his folks up for money…no, Sundays couldn’t possibly be that exciting without these three pastor brats…  Or could they?

When Life is Good Enough

A walk to the mailbox yields an extra envelope inside; this one not a bill! The card is a funny one; a sort of vicarious life-is-good thrill, for this time, my friend’s message tells me that her life has turned around again.  The Thanks So Much is underlined because of the quick emails I sent along with my almost-as-quickly-crafted prayers; I thank God for filling in the blanks so that I could send my short messages when she needed some encouragement.


I haven’t had to experience watching a son go off to war; so, when the phone rings later that evening, and the good news is that a friend’s son has safely returned home from the front lines, I take note.  The many months he spent knowing he was in harm’s way is something that as a parent I can only imagine; reading history and watching old Victory at Sea newsreels doesn’t begin to simulate the same experience.


Another day’s work has finally ended; the clock permits me to stop and call it a day.  I used to arrive home with a paycheck in my pocket; today, my answers to prayer are what make the hearth seem even warmer than before; perhaps it will be a popcorn night?  A few moments of reverie in the garden before starting dinner are allowed tonight; even the knockout roses are still blooming to full capacity!  There is not an empty branch in sight.


I’m beginning to understand my father’s tendency to settle for what he repeatedly described as good enough. It has taken me years to believe that an inner sense of peace can be mine more often; I need only see and hear with a grateful heart.  There are gifts of solace and joy when life is good enough!






When Everyone Was Irish

Across the Bay, the City had a parade each year.  Even the Italians walked among their Irish compatriots, extolling the Virtues of the Green in their mutually adopted new homeland.  This was America.  The Melting Pot.  Monthly Holidays in a myriad of global refinery and adapted traditions, representing many of the nationalities that had built our country, eventually found a home on Rubberneck.

The weeks after the Christmas holidays were always a letdown for kids; we had to wait for the end of January or early February for any further excitement.  Then, we enjoyed Chinese New Year (comparing our birth year animals) and Valentine’s and George and Abe’s birthdays; excitement invaded elementary classrooms each March as we studied the Irish and their folklore.  A childhood imperative:  we must wear green or risk being pinched!!!

We brought home our latest St. Patrick’s art project to the smell of corn beef and cabbage, with little boiled potatoes, turnips, onions and carrots cooking in the pot!  This was the one night of the year when we were all Irish on Rubberneck Avenue, sharing a bit of the blarney and blessings in our own kitchens.  While most of Mom’s boiled dinners were “French” in nature, containing a variety of meats and things (i.e. oxtails, beef tongue) that my normal friends didn’t eat, I enjoyed this Irish meal very much…and was much relieved that we were eating what the other kids did that evening!  Even Yakov knew what St. Patrick’s Day was.  Wow! What a country!

One St. Patrick’s, Mom even let me make green lemonade!  Odd, but that pitcher lasted the longest any pitcher of lemonade ever did.  Apparently, not too many neighbors were willing to test it out.  Even the kids on the block hesitated.  Thinking about it now, I may have put a bit too much food coloring in the batch; the Kelly green shade was slightly over the top, making the lemonade look more like a potion; something from the Evil Witch Stepmother’s laboratory in Snow White.

We’d had too many hours of Disney magic to warn us of such things. Even though we understood that not all Irish have red hair, the bigger, more important question remained:  do Leprechauns really exist?  Darby O’Gill convinced us they did.  Wow…even the bakery had four-leaf clovers; holiday cookies sprinkled with green sugar.  What a great day to be Irish!

Gunfight at the OBGYN Corral

On the surface, it was simply routine; my annual checkup.  The form might have been revised; I filled out current symptoms – everything from migraines to fatigue – checking a fair amount of items on the list.

Once my gynecologist entered, we chatted briefly.  Then, she reviewed my check marks, confirming the severity of each chosen item, skipping around as one health concern led to another, including family history of diabetes, cancer, and the like.  Mentally, I was ticking off the points I wanted to remember, interjecting questions that I had as a layman in this medical office atmosphere.

Before long, her eyes back down on the list, she looked up and asked, “How many firearms do you have in your house?”

Thankfully, I was not struck dumb.  Rather, the adrenaline began to flow at top speed. Looking straight into her eyes, I asked, “What the hell does that possibly have to do with any of this conversation?  My husband doesn’t own any firearms.  What’s your point?”

“Have you always been sort of a Type A personality?” she broached…

“My baby book states that I walked on my own at nine months.  What does THAT tell you?”

She quickly changed the subject, but not before I continued saying my peace (or piece, pun intended, because I let go with both barrels!!)

“Doctor, this is not the country I grew up in.  I know where that line of inquiry is coming from; I am aware of the so-called, protective, nanny-state ordinance that recently passed on behalf of protecting our children and grandchildren.  I have no grandchildren as yet, but I absolutely refuse to acquiesce to such scrutiny now or in the future.  Furthermore, my husband lost everything years ago, his guns included.  If I were able, I would replace each and every one he used to own. “

Not that she had much choice after that soapbox rant, but apparently, this naturalized physician with the lovely Australian accent heard me!  She never handed me another form or brought up the subject ever again.

I was definitely my father’s daughter – Type A and however many red-white-and-blue political genes we shared.