I’m a total sucker for romantic stories about people being unexpectedly reunited with an old flame. It’s so cliche, I know. I can only think of one romance novel I’ve read in my life. (I promise. It was a Mormon romance novel and I only read it because it was given to me for free by the author who was sitting next to me at a signing table and she seemed nice. Nope, it wasn’t the vampire one. I haven’t read that and you can’t make me.) The whole premise of the novel was high school sweethearts meeting again by chance two decades later after life had beaten them down and finally all the stars aligned. My guess is that this formula is used by pretty much every romance novelist at least 15 times in the course of a writing career. And I can’t blame those authors, because it is so romantic!
Sometimes it happens in real life. Have you seen this? I mean, come on.
Something like this will never happen to me. I don’t carry any old torches around, and Joe and I have also agreed that he will die one second after I do, when we’re both very old and have met, loved, and nurtured all of our grandchildren. Actually we disagree on which person will die first but it will definitely be me. And if he hooks back up with an ex in that one second of time? He has my blessing.
I figured this meant that I’d have to just swoon over other people’s stories in the viral Facebook postings or maybe I would have to accidentally read another romance novel. But recently something kind of amazing happened to me. Did your vision get all wavy right now and did you start hearing harps? That’s because a flashback is about to happen.
When I was in the fourth grade, they told all the kids to pick a musical instrument to play. Not everyone did it. Most of my friends who did chose a band instrument like trumpet or clarinet. I chose violin, which put me in the orchestra. Violin was my destiny. I hadn’t dreamt all of my short life of playing the violin. I played it because my sister had played it for a while and now we had a spare violin laying around the house. It was the cheapest option for my parents and it helped me fulfill my usual goal of trying to be exactly like my big sister. And I really liked it. I was kind of a natural, actually. It seemed kind of heavy to lug to school, but once I was there playing, it felt so right. I didn’t really practice very much, but I always got first or second chair. I loved the sound of all the strings playing together. Sometimes I tried to make my voice sound like a stringed instrument. I think it influenced my singing style.
Time went on. Some of my friends started taking private lessons on their instrument, but I still settled for school orchestra. In junior high, I was still getting first or second chair all the time, and then one time we had chair auditions and I got first chair, but in the second violins. Which is still really good, I think. I can’t imagine that as a 13 year old it should have mattered very much to a girl like me, who never even practiced anyway. But something kind of changed after that. It was weird. I just started caring a little less. I think my teacher wanted me to try harder, but instead I tried less. The only time I ever got detention at school in my life was when I was sword fighting in orchestra with my violin bow. I coasted along for the rest of the year, and then I didn’t sign up for orchestra the next year. My mom thought maybe we should try private lessons, because it seemed to be something I might be able to become good at, and I still kind of liked it. One of our neighbors taught violin, so I signed up. I’m not sure what her deal was or if it was my fault, but for the many months I took lessons, I was never allowed to play anything but Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I finally quit. My careless romance with the violin had come to an end. I hadn’t really treated it with enough respect. I didn’t work for it. It made sense for it to end.
Many years went by. I had a happy life with piano and eventually guitar. (This is where the analogy kind of falls apart. FYI, polygamy and affairs are not my thing, I promise.) But every now and then I wondered about what might have been.
Time only goes one way. I can’t go back and become the all star violin player I maybe should have been. But my longing to pick it back up recently became so great that I thought I’d see what would happen if a violin became a part of my life again. I figured the universe would sort it all out if I led the way. I asked my Facebook friends how to find a decent violin without spending millions of dollars. (when I was in college my parents traded in our violin to buy me a guitar. Which was stolen. A long story for another day. And once again, kind of making the analogy icky…anyway…) Boom, a neighbor let me borrow her violin! And then, boom, I discovered that my friend and old BYU Folk Ensemble instructor happens to be the dad of the best fiddle teacher ever, and she was taking new students!
I pulled the violin out and played a few scales to see how awful it would be. I did NOT play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. My playing sure didn’t sound amazing but it felt right somehow. I was able to whip out a few tunes by ear. I started remembering what it felt like to be kind of predisposed to understanding it.
Yesterday was my first lesson. I was nervous. Nervous that she’d tell me my violin wasn’t expensive enough. Or that she thought I’d remember more of what I had known before. But she kept throwing things at me and out of nowhere I actually kind of knew how to do them. She kept saying, “This will probably be easy for you, you probably already know how, but practice this.” And I was too embarrassed to tell her that in this one lesson she had taught me more about playing the violin/fiddle than I had ever learned in all of my life. I had a nerdy grin on my face the whole time. I think I actually giggled with excitement when she told me how to fix my arm to make a scale sound better. It was like my eyes met across the room with that old flame, and we danced, and it was like no time had passed, except now I was smarter and better and willing to work harder and appreciate what we had. Holding and playing that violin lit me up with pure joy. I smiled all the way home and when Joe asked me how it went, I talked a mile a minute about nerdy things like scales and elbows and wrists. I practiced later that night and still loved it, even though it was challenging. Maybe even because it was challenging.
Today I practiced again. I really dug in. It was hard, but still fun. I still feel the electricity and excitement. I think this is the part in the relationship where you find out after all this time that your old flame was much more complicated, brilliant and intense than you gave him credit for long ago. Maybe he has kids now who don’t know if they will ever like you. Maybe in the end it won’t work out. And maybe it will never be as good as it would have been if you had never let each other go. But maybe it will be amazing and wonderful in a totally different way.
Whatever happens, I think it’s safe to say that for me and the violin, love is better the second time around. Maybe this is just what I never realized for all this time that I needed. Or maybe it will just be fun. I’ll keep you posted.