A Chord

I am 5 years old…  My father has shown me a trick on the piano as we sit together, his fingertips settled on the keys to play.

“One key, skip a key and then press the next key.  Doe – re – mi, doe – mi, see?  Harmony!”

“Now watch. If I move my fingers up to the next note, skip two, press three, there you have it again, harmony… but it’s a little higher, doe – mi.”

A lock of his brown hair falls out of place over one eye and he looks like a kid, like us – always something just a little out of place, no matter how well we put ourselves together.

“Now, you sing it when I play it.  I’ll be doe and you be mi.  He puts his long finger over my little one and we press middle C together.

He sings “doe.”  I follow under his note “doe” imitating the sound, my little voice under his.  He walks up “re” then once more to show me the third note.

“Mi” he says gently, “that’s your note.”

I hear the sound and sing it louder, “Mi.”  His “doe” still sounding, in chorus.

“We’re a chord!” he says smiling.

I grin, looking up to him. “Let’s do it again!” and we do.

I am 14… My father sees I’ve gotten bored with the autoharp he gave me for my birthday four months ago.  My eyes look longingly as he plays his guitar with me in a chair across from his in the living room.

“Dad, can you show me how to play the guitar?”

“Sure honey, here.”  He holds up his guitar by the neck and hands it to me and then picks up my brother Mike’s classical guitar leaning in the corner of the  wainscoted walls and throws it comfortably on his lap.

“Here’s what you do.”

He begins to show me.  I follow his fingers around the neck with mine, finding the stations for each fingertip; G, C, D. “Four Strong Winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high, all those things that don’t change, come what may…”

“Okay, go try that for awhile” he says.

Thirty minutes later I’m back for more.

He laughs when he sees I’ve got it.

I am 15… My father has driven me to The Experiment, a new folk club with psychedelic walls that has opened in the next town just up the hill from the train station in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  It’s my first audition, six months after my first three chords.  I’m young and the owners are busy until I sing, “The way I feel is like a robin…

The bartender behind the counter stops circling the counter with the wet terry rag. A smile cracks the owner’s face and he leans against the doorjamb, clipboard folded across his chest.  I close my eyes and press into my guitar to sing.  I get the job.

Forty-five years later, that day is still one of my father’s favorite stories.


To read Cathleen’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.


2 responses to “A Chord

  1. Beautiful! Love the idea of your co-writing. What a wonderful and ultimately revealing process. I found this blog because I bought my foster son a uke for his second birthday. I have spent my life in music so of course I try to infuse music into all my kids lives. One of the very special roles I have is caring for babies after they are born and before they are adopted. So adoption – the kids, the birth families and the adoptive families are all very close to my heart. Can’t wait to read the book!


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