Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Serendipity of Music

Every now and then something magical happens. Some people call it Serendipity. All I know is that when something good; something joyful; something that strikes like a thunder clap occurs it makes life worth living.

Or perhaps it simply allows us to see a bit more clearly, or to have the strength to get up for another day.

When I was a kid, I lived in Arlington Heights Illinois. Like any teenager, friends were important: those were the folks that showed me how to start weaving the tapestry of my own life. Those were the guys who helped me explore: bicycle trips, girls, Scouts, girls, music, girls, religion, girls, nature, girls, and the world around me, which very much included girls.

I never kept friends too close possibly because I was bound to move on. That's what happens when you're an airline pilot's son. You move and move: from Illinois to California to New York to Florida to Washington State to Ireland. Along the way, you'll pick up treasures that you can take with you and that are easily transported: the glory of a sunset; the fun of a beach; the memory of a first kiss. But you can't take friends with you. They don't pack too well. So instead you save the memories in your mind's photo album, taking them out occasionally to study them like a worn but valuable stamp collection.

When I was 13, I had a couple of good friends: Jeff, Terry...and my best friend Steve. Steve was taller than me (easy to do); he was stronger than me (easier to do); he could play the Guitar better than me (easiest of all). And I looked up to him and treasured him because I had at last found a real friend. We hung out together. We played Guitar together. We talked about girls together. He was the guy that I stammered to when I finally got to 2nd Base with Barbara Whazhername. He laughed like hell because I was so damned innocent. Like a character out of Summer of '42, my hand had initially turned left rather than right at the first obstacle. But I finally found my double objective, or so my memory remembers.

When Steve laughed at my innocence I laughed with him. I laughed because he was my friend and I loved him.

Usually, I'm the guy who leaves when my father would sadly state that we'd have to move. This time, in 1970, it was Steve. His folks were moving back to their homestead way down in the Southern US, and they were insisting that he come with him. Damn. It almost broke my heart.

We did our best to keep in touch, a couple of boys writing letters separated by a couple of States, a few thousand miles, and wildly different experiences. But as the months passed, our letters became less frequent. Finally, they stopped all together.

We lost touch. For the next forty years we stayed out of touch.

Then only today, I found him again. Or he found me. He saw me on Facebook, and he emailed me. It's a damned miracle, is all I can say. And all because of Music and a new Guitar. Just like it was when Steve and I played together.

I wrote him instantly. This is what I wrote to him. And it's true. Every word.

Dear Steve: One more note before I get back to work:

I'd always had music in my life one way or another. A song, a guitar, albums.... Over the years and as kids and grandkids came along, music was shelved to make room for family, work, and the clutter that goes with living. I even managed to break the neck of that old Harmony Guitar that I had when we were kids. I'd taken it all the way to Ireland with me, and the music died 10 years ago.

Then only last week I'm walking through the small town of Navan where I've lived since 82. I knew I needed a bit of personal music in my life. Across the street was a music shop. On the spur of the moment I walked in and bought a new guitar. I started playing it only days ago. And yes, I'm still horrible. More so now because the fingers have forgotten. Mind, I know it's like a bicycle. Hidden in there somewhere is an ancient memory, and until I remember I'll keep struggling.

But while my stiff fingers picked the almost remembered strings, I thought of you.

And then today, I heard from you.

And that, I suspect, is what Music is all about.