Dad nudged my shoulder until I pried my eyes open.
“Don’t you have violin lessons?” he asked.
I nodded, my body still drowsy from sleep.
“It’s nine thirty,” Dad admonished. He shoved me over in an attempt to wake me up. Waking me up was not an easy feat. “Come on, get up.”
My mind obeyed his request, but my body was not as eager. When I finally extracted myself from bed, my mind was a ticking time bomb filled with doubt. What if I was complete rubbish? What if my tutor thought I was rubbish? What have I gotten myself into?
When my violin teacher arrived, I had just emerged from the shower. I’d attempted to scrub away the apprehensions I had woken with, but all that came off was dead skin and dirt.
He will hence forth be known to this blog as Mr L.
I grabbed my violin and raced down the stairs.
Mr L sat on the couch with a slight hunch that could have been mistaken as a slouch. His legs, wrapped in loose slacks, were crossed. His thin hair was gelled back neatly, and when he smiled, his eyes wrinkled behind his rectangular spectacles.
“Hi,” he said mildly, standing to extend a veiny hand.“You must be Danielle.”
“Yes sir,” I shook his hand and noted that he just about matched my height. “You must be Mr L.”
He took the delicate instrument from its black casing, releasing the sweet woody smell of rosin in the process, and began plucking the strings. Creases formed between his brow. It was so off tune. After turning the pegs a few times, Mr L ceased plucking and wedged the violin under his chin. He drew the bow across the strings, creating a rich melody that reminded me of honey. I stood before him in awe, my eyes wide as his fingers pranced across the fingerboard with ease. He varied his pace until he was playing a quirky tune that resembled the theme song of BBC’s Sherlock.
Satisfied, Mr L lowered the bow.
“It has a nice sound,” he remarked, lifting his chin from the chin rest ever so slightly. “Not brilliant, but it has a nice sound. You’re lucky to have it.”
Pride filled my chest. My violin (although brandless and China made) had a nice sound.
We chattered for a few minutes, as new acquaintances often do, before he set the instrument gently on the coffee table and took a clear book from his leather bag.
“For our first lesson,” he said gently, “repeat after me. I.”
“I,” I said, straightening my back and allowing the words to roll of my tongue.
“Must never ever,” he clasped his hands behind his back.
“Must never ever.”
“Rest a violin.”
“Rest a violin.”
“On a seat.”
So much for BBC’s Sherlock, I thought to myself before repeating, “On a seat.”
“Lest anyone sit on it.”
“Lest anyone sit on it.”
Reciting it felt like being inducted into an exclusive brotherhood. Part of me was tempted to ‘solemnly swear I was up to no good,’ but my sensibilities reminded me to tone down my internal abnormal.
“Alright,” he clapped his hands and handed me a book. “Hold this between your right thumb and middle finger…”
“Is this for the bow, Mr L?” I asked, taking the book by two fingers, and holding it away from me as if it were poisoned.
“Why, yes, yes, it is,” he said, his smile widening.
While we tackled the different finger positions, Mr L told comical anecdotes.
“If you ever go to Italy,” he said, “buy a violin. If you go to France, buy a bow.
“I once had a student who went to France and bought a violin, and then to Italy and bought a bow,” he shook his head and chuckled before instructing me to prop the violin underneath my chin. “Let’s proceed to playing notes.”
My hands dampened at the thought of reading notes. Though we’d learned all about it as far back as grade school, I could never make sense of the blackened little circles on music sheets. Here Mr L proved an excellent tutor. He related the notes with finger positions from zero to four, making it easier for me to comprehend the spots on the page.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lesson was not as technical as I feared. In fact, the experience was enjoyable. There was a unique sort of elegance to learning the violin. It was like a brook of piney water flowing gently down a mossy bank.
The designated hour elapsed too soon, but it was time to part. Mr L packed up his clear book and I paid him his dues. Mom, cued by the sudden absence of scratching strings, emerged from the kitchen with a smile. The two adults engaged each other in lively conversation.
“How often should she be practicing?” Mom asked, eyeing me like a hawk.
“Twenty minutes in the morning, and twenty in the evening would be best,” he said, standing.
“You’d better practice,” Mom joked.
I accompanied him to the door, and watched his figure disappear down the street.
Perhaps I should learn the theme song to Sherlock.
Although, that would be getting ahead of myself.