Monday, 20 September 2010

A special and unexpected gift

Last month while James and I and the boys were at a dinner party with a group of friends, James suddenly made the comment "Oh! I forgot! I picked something up for you today." He dashed out to the car and came back with

a violin.

A violin. Yes, that's right! I have been wanting a violin for years, but they are a very expensive instrument and one that you don't often see people wanting to get rid of for little money. So I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that this would be a passion I would have to put on hold for a long time. And then in walked James with a violin!

It was the strangest way to receive such a longed-for and cherished gift. There I stood surrounded by a dozen other people, some who are good friends, some who are husbands of good friends, and some who were actually strangers. Caught so completely off-guard, I felt all my emotions choke up in my throat, and all I could manage was a mumbled "thank you" in absolute awe of the moment.

Then James told me the story behind the violin, which made the instrument and the gift that much more special to me. James was doing an estimate for an elderly lady looking to move, and in an off-handed manner offered him the violin. It had been in the family for over a century, but no one wanted it anymore. Thankfully James memory tweaked and he recalled me mentioning on more than one occasion my desire to learn to play the violin. As he accepted the free offering, the lady made one condition: she wanted to make sure the violin's story went with it. The instrument belonged to an ancestor, a man who was a pastor over seven different congregations back at the turn of the 20th century. He would ride horseback between the parishes, the violin tucked away in its case (which came with it) and tied onto his back. At each church he would preach a message of God, play some hymns on the violin, then ride on to the next church.

I can still feel the flush that came over me as I gently caressed the beautiful wood and deep stain. The noise around me faded to faint echoes, so lost was I in this unexpected present. I have always firmly averred a preference for instruments made decades in the past. My favourite pianos to play are not the bright and strong ones of today but the soft, muted tones of pianos played by great great grandmothers when in their youth. That is what adds to this gift: that this violin comes with a story and was crafted over a hundred years ago. The strings are completely missing, and the horsehair bow is frayed from the years, repairs that will cost dearly and certainly can't be completed soon. But one day I will be able to have it restored and it will sing melodious hymns once more.

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