Thursday, August 13, 2009

Show & Tell: The Violin

Good evening Humble Readers... It looks like I need a tardy slip, because I'm late for Show & Tell. For those of you who haven't heard, show & tell is wasted on elementary schoolers. Every week we can step to the front of the class and share something... be it silly or sublime. Check out Mel's place to see what the rest of the class is showing this week.
I've been rather sentimental this week. Thinking a lot about family in all its forms and how it shapes us. As I mentioned in my last post, my biological family isn't a big part of my life. But I cannot deny that they had a huge impact on my life.
One of the few things I have that ties me to them is a violin. A very old, very beautiful violin.

(the ugly black case)
For all my life, the violin has been carefully hidden away. As a child, I was never allowed to touch it. It resided under my Mom's bed, in an ugly black case usually covered in dust.

(look close and you can see Fredrick's handwriting... 1893)

I grew up hearing the stories of how my Grandfather's (not Grandpa from the previous post) great uncle Frederick made the violin in 1893. How Frederick played it in the Accrington (England) orchestra before the turn of the twentieth century. How my Mom was the first person in three generations to play it. There was a special family gathering when it was presented to her, and she played Rock of Ages. How my Grandfather was disappointed because to his tone-deaf ears, it sounded off key. How after one high school orchestra practice, my Mom's conductor asked her not to play it, except when she was given a solo because it sounded so much better than the school's instruments.

I remember when the violin was damaged. A babysitter looking after my sister and I (then 4 years old) got into my Dad's booze, and then started going through my parents' room. After rifling through my Mom's jewelry box, she pulled the violin out from under the bed, and proceded to crack the bridge and knocked out the sound post. It took eleven years for my Mom to find someone she trusted enough to repair it. The man who repaired it offered my Mom a large amount of money for it, but of course he was turned down.

Every time we moved, it would be either in the first load or the last. It traveled on my Mom's lap or on the front seat where she could keep it safe. This is a tradition that I have kept. Even on the long road from Lethbridge to Orlando and back again, it resided on the front seat beside me, and came into every motel room each night of the journey.

(with the original bow)

I am sorry to say, that the violin still resides under a bed... mine. I have long wanted to get it set up in a display box of some sort, where it would be safe from dust and humidity. I don't think it would ever get me a fortune on Antiques, but it's special nonetheless.

I have one more confession. I have never heard it played. Never. When I was born, the fall after my Mom graduated from high school, she put the violin away forever. The man who repaired it played a few notes on it, but I wasn't there to hear it. I hope that there is a point in the future, when someone (a child of mine, perhaps) will tune the strings and draw a bow across them.

I hope I'm there to hear it.


  1. So sweet and sentimental. And the woodwork on the violin looks gorgeous! I hope you get to hear it played one day too, sweet Hobbit. :)

  2. Wow, what an amazing history that violin has had! I don't know anything about violins, but it looks absolutely gorgeous in the pictures.

  3. what a story. it's a beautiful violin.

  4. You have no idea how excited I was to see this. As you know, I'm a fiddler, and I too have an old violin. Not one that was created by a family member, unfortunately. How special to have one that was! Let me offer a bit of advice to you. Spend the money to purchase a better case. The cases we have now are climate controlled and have a humidity gauge. You can purchase a fancy item to keep the interior humid (or you can use what I do.. a sponge slightly moist and inside a ziplock with a few holes poked in). The relative humidity should never fall below 50%, and it should stay pretty constant at around 60%. The new case will do a good job keeping things constant. I cringed when you talked about the drunk babysitter handling it. Sadly enough, I also lost my bridge and knocked over the sound post...while I was STRINGING mine!!! I took it to a shop to have the post reset, and I'll never change the strings on it again. I know that sounds horribly stupid..but I just won't. Yikes! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Wow, how beautiful and cool to have that. I really hope you get to hear it played someday.

  6. Wow, what an amazing story! I do hope you get to hear it played, though.

  7. How beautiful! It is absolutely gorgeous... and has so much meaning. I hope that one day SOON a child of yours will make it sing. :)

    Thanks for the comments on my blog! We are a weepy bunch, huh? I will totally get some of the author you suggested. I NEED some comedy, you are right!!!

  8. What an absolute treasure! It is truly gorgeous.

  9. That was beautiful. Maybe you could learn to play now?

  10. I have every confidence that you will hear that violin someday MrsG. What an extraordinary artifact to have in your family. You should name it "the precious." :-D

  11. Wow. What a truly special and rare gift. To think what has happened in the world in that violin's lifetime.

    I agree. You could always learn to play a little yourself and then try it out on that gorgeous instrument.

    Just as a note. The cases of most lovely instruments are often abused nad neglected. It's their job but I also think it has to do with hiding jewels withing. I play the flute (well I did) and my beat up case houses an old name flute that has the most gorgeous tone.

  12. Why did your mom never play it again, she obviously cherished it? Great post, what a heirloom!


Hobbits are social creatures, and love hearing from friends old and new. Pull up a comfy chair and let's get to know one another.