November 25, 2007


Guitar solo

All Thanksgiving week, the house was filled with music. With the college kids home and the younger kids off from school, the musicians of the household (that is, everyone under the age of thirty) had all kinds of time to jam. Skater Boy was here, as was Older Neighbor Boy and Philosophical Boy. And of course, they brought guitars and amps with them.

One musician was missing: the extra we call Quick. He's amazing on the drums and piano, just incredibly talented; his father is a band teacher so he's been playing since he was a little kid. He's smart and polite, a kid who fits right in with my own kids, and although he's in Shaggy Hair Boy's grade at school, he's comfortable talking to the college kids or playing chess with With-a-Why. But he wasn't here this weekend. The day before Thanksgiving, his lung collapsed, and he was rushed into surgery. He spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, drugged and mostly sleeping. But he's recovering now, able to sit up and play computer games, and hopefully, he will be back here to play in no time.

I'm the token non-musician in the household, but I love to sit by the fire and listen while the kids play. A jam session has an interesting dynamic. The musicians are so intent on the music that they pay attention to nothing around them. They communicate with body language, short sentences full of music jargon, and mostly, through the music itself. Boy in Black, on the drums, will suddenly pick up the tempo. Shaggy Hair Boy, on the piano, will give him a quick glance, just an instant of eye contact, and then pick up the tempo. The jazz improv numbers are performed without words although once in awhile I'll hear Boy in Black say, "Niiiice."

The musicians switch places all the time, moving from drums to piano to guitar in a smooth choreography. Older Neighbor Boy is most likely to take the microphone. (Yeah, we have microphones. And very tolerant neighbors.) In between numbers, they will discuss what they are going to do, with the more experienced musicians teaching the less experienced ones. It's not a whole lot of talking — just quick sentences and nods of the head — but mostly, they play the same songs over and over, they experiment and try things out, and they laugh like crazy if it sounds awful. I've often thought the jam session could well serve as a model for learning of all kinds: most writers I know, for instance, learn from hanging out with other writers and playing around with words.

Last night, all the extras had gone home, and my husband and I were lounging on the comfy couch with our youngest child when the older kids started playing. Shaggy Hair began on the piano, playing chords and a bass line, and tapping a tambourine with his foot. "Come on," Boy in Black said to his sister, "You should solo." My Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter usually plays classical piano rather than jazz improv, but she obligingly sat down on the piano bench next to her brother and began picking out notes in the upper register. Boy in Black grabbed his guitar. With-a-Why, too sleepy to join in, snuggled against me, warm and happy to have all his siblings home.


That's Shaggy Hair Boy in the top photo.


kate5kiwis said...

love that shirt of SHB's.
it reminds me of how hubby used to dress oh, about twenty years ago.
sheesh, that sounds a lot of years when ya write it X

Cathy said...

Wow - lucky you to be able to capture times and photos like these. And memories.

Kyla said...

To have a house filled to the brim with love and music is a blessing.

liz said...


susan said...

What a gift you all are to each other.

And I am having total hair envy.

julieunplugged said...

Wow your kids really are like mine!! I feel that kinship bond growing. :)

Autumn Song said...

I like that your children fill time with music.

Silver Creek Mom said...

Awesome. I love it when Miranda sits down to play. Nathan has not yet expressed an interest in music. We hope that day will come.

History Lovers said...

You're a very lucky woman.