Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oh My Darling

      Sissey has a new hobby. The ukulele.  Yes, I said the ukulele. Baritone, to be exact.  A regular throw back to Don Ho. She's always wanted to go to Hawaii, and with the recession and all, this is as close as she's gonna get. Besides that, the ukulele has become quite popular again. Oh, you didn't know? Well, it has. Don't think Tiny Tim and Don Ho had a monopoly on that fine instrument. It's making a come-back BIG TIME.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
     She didn't actually start out with the ukulele. It was the guitar that she was really interested in-- that oh-so-popular instrument with all the young female musicians-- so she called her cousin in Anderson, SC and asked if she could borrow an old one.  Anna was the proud owner of a new, top-of-the-line Fender that she had gotten for Christmas, so she was more than willing to ditch her starter guitar . She agreed to bring it over the next time she was in town, but cautioned Sissey that it needed a "few little repairs."  There was one other condition attached: her brother, Tripp, and his band  "The Dealers" wanted to smash the guitar as part of a routine at one of their college gigs. Anna asked Sissey to send the guitar on to Tripp as soon as she was finished with it and ready to upgrade. Although the thought of smashing a perfectly good instrument was a little appalling to Sissey, she agreed to Anna's terms.
      The guitar arrived and off we went to the music store in Rock Hill, eager to replace a few strings, grab some new picks, and begin her journey into the acoustical land of strummers and pickers.  Only one little problem: the "few little repairs" involved some major cracks in the fretboard and some pretty big structural problems.  The bottom line was that the repairs would cost more than a new guitar. Things were not looking too good.
     In the meantime, Sissey had also discovered that Anna's guitar was a bit cumbersome for her to manage and that the strings would have to be reversed in order to accommodate the limited range of motion in her right hand.  She would have to learn to play the guitar left handed and backwards while creatively trying to  to hold an instrument that was practically as big as she was. It became apparent this wasn't going to be a successful musical venture. The owner of the music store, however, was determined not  to let an eager musician walk out empty handed. He started walking around the store and pointing out other options.
     I said "Absolutely not!" when he suggested the violin, as I was still having painful flashbacks from my experience tutoring a young violinist back in my high school days (I would play the piano as he practiced, the neighborhood cats howling along with the screeching notes, my head pounding at the end of the hour long session).
      I suggested the tambourine, but they both shook their heads and cried  "No!"
     "What about the mandolin?" I offered next.
     "You have got to be kidding!" Sissey said. "NOBODY plays the mandolin."
       I could have argued that point, but let it pass.
      We circled the store, checking out drums, banjos, keyboards. Finally, the shop owner had an insight.
      "Wait just a sec," he said as he headed towards the back of the store. "I have something that just might work."
     He reappeared with what looked like the perfect "Sissey-sized" mini-guitar. It was about two feet long, half the size of a standard guitar, but perfectly aportioned and resembling Anna's Fender.  Her eyes lit up like sparklers the minute she saw it, and I knew we would not be leaving that store until my credit card had been swiped.
      Sissey grabbed the "mini-guitar" and started strumming away. It was a perfect fit. Not only that, but instead of the usual six-strings found on a guitar, this one only had four!  So much easier than those pesky six...who needed those extra two strings anyway, when four did the job just as well?
     "We'll take it!" she said as she strummed away.
       "Do you even know what this is?" I asked her.
       Didn't know, didn't care. It was the right size, it had strings, it made sounds, she could hold it on her lap, and she was in her element strumming away. It was a done deal.
       The shop owner gave her a quick lesson on baritone ukuleles, and when she found out they were the instrument most associated with Hawaii, there was no turning back.  We left with the uke, a couple of picks, and a Mel Bradley instructional book of chords and songs. She learned the first two chords in a flash: G7 and C. That's all you needed to sing most of the songs ever written for the ukulele, but for some reason, she was stuck on one in particular: "Oh My Darling Clementine."
     For the last week, she has strummed and we have sung "Oh My Darling Clementine" enough times to set a Guiness Book of World Records, which I'm sure has never been done with the baritone ukulele. We are so very proud.
      So Sissey has a new hobby. She's a ukuleleist.
      I insisted she take it with her on spring break so her Dad can get the full effect of "Oh My Darling." All weekend long. Over and over and over. Morning, noon, and evening. Yep, strumming away. On the beach. By the pool. In the car. Non-stop. With me singing.
     Oh, my darling, it's going to be a great week!    

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