A couple of years ago I was planning to get my husband a banjo for Christmas. The idea of being surrounded by an eclectic group of instruments seemed like an appealing hobby, albeit rather expensive. We already had a nice pile of instruments lying around because when I started playing classical guitar in college my dad began giving me stringed instruments as gifts. I have a blue generic brand electric guitar, a twelve string, an awesome Takamine steel string with pickups, one Alvarez classical guitar that is nice, one old classical that belonged to my dad in the 60s, and a mountain dulcimer that I have never had a clue how to play, but looks kind of exciting and mysterious.
Shortly before that Christmas my in-laws over in Spokane shot me a text message asking if Jeff had a Mandolin. What luck! My husband could meet his obscure instrument quota, and I wouldn’t have to buy a banjo I had no money for since Trading Musician broke the news that my twelve string guitar had “a bubble” rendering it worthless.
A mandolin! That was even cooler than I expected. I had no idea that Jeff’s family shared his interest in music. In fact, I was almost positive that they didn’t . . .
Have you ever been in a room and anticipated one thing, then let out an audible I-get-it-now noise when you see what is really there? You try your best to hide it, but it is kind of a cross between a shocked inhale, and a quick “Oh my god,” under your breath, so no one can see that you made a mistake. That was Christmas morning, when, to my utter surprise, my husband opens his brand new mandolin—the kind that slices vegetables. The kind of mandolin that would be most appropriate for my husband, the cook, the guy who has worked in kitchens and restaurants for a long time. The kind of mandolin that never, ever once crossed my mind.
I thought of this today as I pulled the mandolin out from its hiding spot under the microwave. It’s getting a little old now, missing the little piece that looks like a cowboy hat that stabs into the vegetable like a handle—so you don’t slice off parts of your strumming hand. I am still mourning the fact that we never got a banjo, or a mandolin. How will we ever start our family bluegrass band without them? I’m positive that Thing Two will be excellent at finger picking the banjo, considering how well he picks his nose. Thing One can construct her own stand up bass from a broom stick and a bucket, and then teach herself how to play it. I’ll stick with guitar. Husband can pick the songs and sing, then procure the hippie followers. We’ll set up in the back yard on top of the giant stump that used to be a poplar tree and go to town. I hope someone will do the windmill, preferably while wearing overalls.