It’s Sunday afternoon, we’re on the road, and the house waiting for us is a mess.
The kitchen is a disaster. The dishes. Our bedroom maintains its perpetual state of active tornado. The tiles. Oh, Gd, help us, the floors are filthy. And there in the corner is a suitcase full of whatever someone needed on a sleepover two months ago. Under the desk, my gym bag gives off a particular, nose wrinkling perfume. School books piled against this shelf, file folders of lesson plans and novel units piled against that shelf, old homework stacked on the coffee table. Dog hair nests everywhere. The laundry nests everywhere. Dust thick on the ceiling fans. Daddy long legs invade at will. Beer and wine bottles from weeks of Shabbosim crowd the top of the fridge.
We can’t. We can’t go back there just yet. We have to delay going home. There waits responsibility. And sometimes the parents are not so perfect with that kind of thing. It’s our fault – all of us. We’ve let it go. We’re busy, but really we haven’t dedicated any time of late to tidiness. And now a danger zone looms like a storm in the short distance.
But, but, but cleaning means less reading and school work. And, and, and cleaning means less sitting around daydreaming. Cleaning means less stargazing. Cleaning means less Facebook and Huffington Post and jiu jitsu videos and listening to tunes.
Besides, keeping it like this gives us an excuse to be out of the house, to escape into some unlikely adventure.
A flash of brilliance. It happens on occasion I get these. And this time everyone agrees.
So, music store.
Just a few miles ahead sits this tremendous box of a corporate music store. We’ve been before, having purchased both Fierce One and Fierce Two their acoustics at this very location last year. Lately, Fierce One has been pining to play electric, while Fierce Two has developed a taste for the drums.
Entering the store we take a breath, catch it, and adjust.
Lights do not gleam or sparkle in here. Lights caress. Everything before us is a holy offering in honor of that desire to bring tunes to life.
(If I was more knowledgeable or less lazy, I’d put a really good quote about music from somewhere in Yiddishkeit or even Chassidus right here. But I’m not and I am. So feel free to provide one if you’ve got one.)
Look left at what seems like a mile of a million electric guitars and bass guitars of varied and sundry hues and designs. Stacked in front of them are amplifiers of every size and shape. Cords coiled and loosened here and there. A bald, chubby 40-ish guy in orange shorts and an aqua tee-shirt sits on a stool rocking something that sounds very 80s thrash. Another guy down the aisle around the same age, but fit and pasty – black hair and alabaster skin – runs his spidery fingers along the neck of the red Strat he cradles as if it’s alive, producing crisp, clean notes in a classical tone.
Ahead, more amps, a guitar strap display, and the main counter. Behind that is the acoustic guitar room. Next to that, the percussion area. To the right: the dj equipment, microphones, components, lights, and synthesizers.
Here’s your one stop mega shop for musicians, hobbyists, and dreamers, all here in droves. But it’s less a shop and more a modern museum dedicated to celebrating and selling the everyday occasion of people playing instruments and making music. Instruments anyone can try, anyone can play. And they do. It is irresistible.
Fierce One immediately scans the electrics and closes in on a sunburst Stratocaster. Without asking for help, he finds a cord and plugs into a baby amp. Sits on a stool and strums and picks and finds the guitar out of tune. So he tunes it. Plays with the knobs on the amp, too. Like he knows something about what he’s doing.
“How do you know—“
“At school, Dad. My friends showed me how.”
You have friends? You have a life I don’t know about? This is always happening to me. Life going on when I’m not there to see it happen.
So there he goes being human. Acting on his own. And so confidently. Trying out the intro to “Seven Nation Army” for the millionth time, but this time on an electric.
Turn around and Fierce Two is dragging my wife to the drum room.
I roam. There’s an electric smell here. Everything is raring to go. The employees are all super helpful. One guy’s hair resembles that of the lead singer of Cinderella in 1989. He wears a regular uniform but I can totally see him in zebra patterned spandex, flying V screaming metal ballads from his fiery hands… I almost sink into a nostalgic reverie. I look down to find that in my hands is a vinyl album: Iron Maiden’s Killers. I put it back, twist some tzitzit strings in my left hand. Life sometimes feels like a Twisted Sister album played backwards at 45 rpm.
I find the drum room. Open the heavy glass door to Fierce Two beating a basic rhythm on the skins with rough looking sticks. Delight shines on her cheeks. She bounces her knees a bit to the beat, her crown of hair shakes around her head with every off beat. My wife, who played drums as a teenager, nods her head in amazement. Looks at me, mouths, “She’s a natural.”
Check the phone. We’ve been hanging out for over an hour. Soon we’ll be hungry.
I look over at her. She’s now back with Fierce One, talking to him as he fiddles with the guitar. Fierce Two is also looking at the electric guitars now.
And I watch my wife watching them. When I met her, she wore Levi’s and had teased, platinum blonde hair. Now she wears a skirt and a sheitel. She’s standing there — both of her, all of her — with our kids, utterly amazed by our children. My best friend in the world, my love, my life, my breath, she stands there, our two kids at her side, now spent from a good time. It’s been decided, I’m informed. Fierce One will be using some of his own money toward an electric and amp in the next few weeks, while we save up to make sure that Fierce Two will have a starter drum set for her coming 13th birthday. I’m already wondering about how we’re going to soundproof the garage.
We gather the troops. It’s time to go. The house awaits. And we have to clean up. And grade papers. And finish report cards.
Fierce One grabs a pack of strings and pegs for his well-played acoustic. We pay and head out.
Out in the sun, I’m Dad, she’s Mom, and we’re going home.
But wait, man, wait. We’re still 20 years old. We haven’t changed. We’re still kids. We’re not really grown up.
I mean, just look at our house.
Image by Frankieleon.