Hey Daddy, Say Mama

Big old shout-out to my parents Holly and Scott, currently living the dream in Bozeman, MT, usually residents of Belmont, MA, and about to come visit me while my mom goes to her high school reunion.

Let me tell you a story of something that happened yesterday that will give you an idea of the parents with whom I grew up.

When my grandmother passed away, I received her ukelele, an old thing in a big, hard faux-alligator-skin case. I tried to play it, but found that my hands didn’t want to bend into the fingerings, and so it hung out in my room for several years. It was still there when I went to college, but by the time I was moving my belongings out to Chicago, it had been misplaced somewhere, so it didn’t make the trip with me, while soon I amassed not one but four guitars (two acoustic, one student, one electric).

In the late spring or early summer of this year, some coworkers and I were talking about getting together with the various instruments we play and jamming. Lila and Lizzy have ukeleles, John sings, I play guitar, David plays keys and drums, and I can even play the spoons. We haven’t had our jam session yet, but it reminded me that I, too, should own a ukelele. And now that stringed instruments have demystified themselves for me for the first time since I gave up the violin in fifth grade, I thought I could give it a shot.

So in an email to my parents (probably one asking for drug money–we have this deal where I get to entitle emails to them “Drug Money” and they get to make fun of my mental health on Post-It notes), I mentioned that if they wouldn’t mind taking a look around for the uke, I’d love to have it out here with me. I didn’t hear back on the ukelele front, and didn’t think much more of it.

A couple of weeks ago, my dad emailed me and mentioned that he was sorry they hadn’t responded about the ukelele earlier, but they hadn’t forgotten about it. In fact, he’d been looking all over the house without any luck, but then, in a cobwebbed corner of the attic, there it was. He was sending it to me at work (much easier to get big packages there than at my apartment), and I should be on the lookout. Thanks, Daddy! I told him. I’ll watch out for that.

Yesterday the receptionist emailed me to say that a package had come in for me. Lizzy and I went to get it. Strangely enough, the package was thinner than I expected it to be, what with that hard faux-alligator skin case and all. It was an Amazon box, which I didn’t think too much about, until I noticed that the label was addressed to me from Amazon, not re-purposed by my parents, who would sign the return label as something like The P.U.s (Parental Units).

Must be something else, I thought. Maybe I ordered something and forgot about it, and it’s taken forever to come.

I was so curious that I couldn’t wait to get to my desk to open it. I started to tear off the tape as Lizzy and I walked back to our desks. And inside I found a brand-new Mahalo soprano ukelele.

Beautiful tone. Pretty little thing. Soft light brown wood. Tiny ukelele. And like I say, brand-new.

These are my parents, folks. The kind of people who not only say that it’s okay for their daughter to be in a Renaissance Faire in Gloucester where her main job is to keep children from getting hit with swords, but who drive her an hour there in the morning and an hour back in the evening so she can do it, giving up four hours of their day. Who not only encourage her to take on a tour across the Midwest with her musical-writing friends, but give up their car, the only one her father can fit in without scrunching, so she can bring cast members and set pieces from Kansas City to Chicago. Whose major concern when she says screw France, she’s studying in India, is how many days they need to travel through Kerala to meet her.

And now I need to learn how to play the ukelele.


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