The leaves on the fig tree in my mother’s backyard have all turned yellow — so yellow, in fact, that the tree glows at the first sign of daylight, long before the sun is up. The neighbor’s maple across the street is yellow, but it doesn’t glow at that hour, being its brightest instead in the late afternoon.
I would like nothing more at the moment than to take a long stroll through an old fig orchard — to feel at peace among the yellow leaves, to inhale the heavenly fig smell, and to examine what remains of the last sugary fig carcasses as they are devoured by ants on the ground. But, alas, there are no fig orchards for miles around. People here don’t understand figs. They prefer fruit they feel is less quaint: apples, oranges, pears — although, now that I think about it, it’s just as likely we don’t understand these fruits either, our daily lives being so far removed from the source.
* * *
Knowing full well that present circumstances almost entirely prevent it, our two guitar-playing sons have decided that I, too, should learn how to play. We’ve talked about it many times before. Heaven knows I’ve given them enough encouragement and shown sincere, enthusiastic interest in their musical pursuits. It’s only natural they’d want to return the favor. And so during the past few weeks I’ve learned a few basic chords. It took only a few days for my fingers to toughen up enough to practice for at least a few minutes. Pain, though, is still a factor. But I love the feeling. Open chords are relatively easy. Then our oldest son introduced me to Barre chords, which are formed by holding the index finger against five or six strings across one fret, and then using the others to hold down different strings below it. Mathematician that he is, he then pointed out that when moved up a fret at a time, a certain configuration results in minor chords, while another results in major chords. Astonishing, yet simple. I’ve even succeeded a few times in holding them down. But generally after a few tries (oops — I accidentally typed “trees,” then corrected it), my hand gives out and my fingers refuse to stay where they belong. Yesterday evening, I hurt my elbow and twisted my neck.
“I think I must be doing something wrong.”
“You are. What’s your shoulder doing way up there?”
“I don’t know. I can’t seem to get it back down. It’s stuck.”
“Beautiful. You’re on your way.”
And so I put down his classical guitar with the wide neck and nylon strings and traded it for his electric Fender Stratocaster. Immediately, my spirit soared. I became Jimi Hendrix — at the age of three.
“Very good. Next time we’ll plug it in.”
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
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