By Ned Cheever
As I approach the 68 marker on the road of life, I reflect upon my accomplishments and my lack of goals pursued in the years gone by. Having ample time, I declare to myself that it is not too late, and I set out and unearth new interests.
Music has long been a medium of enjoyment for me. As a kid I played the cornet, and did so quite well. But, as kids sometimes do, I abandoned my musical pursuits, and sold the instrument for a pittance.
A few years ago, at the urging of a local band leader, I purchased a trumpet with the intention of regaining my skill and playing in the old-timers’ jazz orchestra. After a 45-year hiatus, I found my chops to be totally gone and the hope of re-establishing an embouchure grim. The hours of fundamental horn practice might have also been damaging to my matrimonial arrangements.
Still, music seems the answer. So will I pursue the piano or guitar as would most in my situation? Of course not.
I will learn the Cajun accordion! That chank-a-chank sound has held my favor for years, and I’ve enjoyed it from Breaux Bridge to Bourbon Street. A brief study of the instrument reveals a basic simplicity that leads one to believe it can be easily learned. A novice with the blues harp, I found the similarity of the diatonic devices conducive to speeding my achievement.
Now the matter of my marital relationship must be revisited. It so happens that my wife, Mary Lynn, and I are blessed with the visit of half of our eight grandchildren, aged 3 through 11, for a period of two long weeks. These little tykes are so adept at producing chaos and mayhem that their presence will be a propitious distraction, allowing me to shrink away into the corner and grind on the squeezebox until it is mastered. My beloved, in her charge of the cherubs, might not even find time to complain about my music-making.
Done deal! I purchased a squashbox earlier in the month, but have not spent much time on it, owing to the tenuous nature of Mary Lynn’s musical appreciation. Let now the work begin!
After about five tedious days of intense practice I am able to pick out La Porte d’en Arriere (D.L. Menard’s “The Back Door”) with the resultant tune being recognizable as a musical activity to the untrained ear. The worst now behind us, by the time the kids return to their distant homes, the accordion and I should be able to peacefully coexist with my fractious femme. Fragments of other Cajun tunes are also working in the mix, so I expect to be reasonably competent in a month or so.
But wait! That’s not all!
Cajun songs are customarily sung in French, a language that has long evaded me. Any purveyor of Cajun accordion music should, without regard of vocal skills, know and understand the words of the songs.
Thus, as an unintended consequence of my musical endeavor, I am now duty-bound to master the Cajun French language.
The Government says I should live another ten years. Perhaps before that milestone is reached, I shall be able to contribute to the perpetuation of the Cajun culture.
Who knows, perhaps there’s still time to learn the fiddle?
Mary Lynn! Where are you going with that suitcase?