I have a few "before I die" goals. See the Aurora Borealis. Walk the Great Wall of China. Learn how to play a musical instrument.
The latter goal has been pursued in earnest since February. And, of course, the instrument of choice is the accordion.
The accordion makes me happy. I love the way it sounds. My favorite bands use the accordion: They Might Be Giants, Oingo Boingo, the Decemberists (and yes, "Weird Al" Yankovic). I guess some would say my obsession with TMBG prompted the accordion lessons, but I would argue that my love of the accordion prompted my obsession with TMBG.
I have never played an instrument. I took piano lessons when I was seven, sitting dutifully on that hard bench with my ancient piano teacher, Mrs. Little. Mrs. Little must have been 115 years old (though in reality she was probably about 60; everyone over 15 is "old" to a seven-year-old) and warbled when she kept time: "Onnneeeeee twoooooo threeeeee..."
Mrs. Little had no patience, which is an awesome trait for a music teacher. When she would get particularly frustrated with me, she would take my small hand and pound it on the keys, screeching, "NO! NO! NO!" And I, more humilated than hurt, would cry. If the sobbing would take place near the end of my lesson, Mrs. Little would bribe me with candy to shut up before my parents picked me up. The candy was circa 1953 "root beer barrels" kept in a sticky candy dish on her coffee table. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one that ever ate those things. I never told my parents about this until I was much older; I think I felt sorry for her.
I don't remember how long I took piano lessons, but do remember I just wouldn't practice. I would get by in my lessons, playing by ear, but Mom got peeved about spending good, sparse money just to fight with me over practicing. After my defection, Mrs. Little called occasionally, warbling her request to have me come back. And for years after that, whenever we'd see someone playing piano on TV or if one of my friends would play our usually silent upright, Mom would shake her head regrettably and say, "See, Keri? If only you would have practiced..."
And now, thirty years later, I realize she was right. Because if I had practiced piano, the accordion would be a helluva lot easier to learn. When I first called the accordion teacher he asked me, "What instruments do you play?" "None!" I said. "Never...?" he asked, incredulous, "How did you escape piano lessons?" I told him about Mrs. Little. "Huh. So... Do you read music?" "Nope!" I could hear him rolling his eyes through the phone. He knew he had his work cut out for him.
I was so excited for my first lesson. We started from square one. How to take it out of the case. How to put it on. Right hand goes here. Left there. That little button releases the air. These are called bellows. These are bass keys. That little rhinestone? Middle "C." Staff, G clef, treble clef, four count. Here's your music and assignment; you can borrow the accordion.
It's difficult. I mean, really difficult. Trying to get my left hand to do one thing while my right hand does another and reading music at the same time? Insane. But I keep at it. I practice at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Sometimes more. I think my teacher knows I'm serious about learning; I'm honest and earnest. I tell him when I haven't practiced. We spar. He tells me my playing sounds like I'm "leaving a trail of dead bodies," I tell him he's a freaking showoff.
I love it. This time I'm learning for me, and when it clicks and I play a piece straight through without mistakes, it's the most amazing feeling ever. I got my very own accordion from eBay; it's beautiful. There are many accordions like it, but this one is mine.
Bring on your accordion jokes (yes, I've seen the Far Side and the bumper sticker that instructs me to go to jail). I don't care. It's my instrument. It makes me happy. And I'm doing something I've always wanted to do.
Doesn't get much better than that.