December 25, 2005

I don't know if other people used to do this, but I was completely fascinated with the baby book that my mother had started for me and would look through it often as a kid. It is a big white book, loosely wrapped with an odd plastic "cover" ... kind of like a library book, but a softer plastic like the bag you use to put your fruits and veggies in at the grocery store. In the front were some basic baby facts, length, weight ... the fact that I kept Mom in labour from midnight until nearly five p.m. the next day ... typical baby book stuff.

And, tucked into one of the early pages is a card of congratulations on the new baby. I don't remember the sentiment on the card, only that it was a Snoopy card and inside, there was a little red plastic banjo.

Evidently the sender of that card knew something about my personality before anyone else did ... I was enthralled with that little plastic banjo from the first time I discovered it in the card and remained fascinated by banjos my entire life.

I can recall, also, walking from the bright, bright Texas sun into the extremely dark Shakey's Pizza Parlour. There was a window that looked into the kitchen where the pizza was made, but I hardly gave the tossed dough a glance ... I could hear something around the corner and ever the kid to follow my curiosity, I headed into the main room to see a man in a red and white striped shirt, seated on a tall stool. He had one of those straw barbershop quartet hats on and he was playing a banjo.

I immediately sat on the floor in front of him and stared up as he played, utterly enthralled.

My mother, coming around the corner and expecting me to be like the other three kids in the pizza joint -- pressing my nose to the glass looking in on the kitchen, felt a moment of panic when I was not there ... panic that intensified when she realized that I was actually listening raptly to the banjo player.

My mother grew up the daughter of a cattle buyer ... they lived in Iowa, Nebraska (I think) and Oklahoma. There was nothing worse in my mother's mind than anything related to "hick" or "country."

My father grew up in Texas ... always small towns, always the wrong side of the tracks. There were six kids ... an older brother from a previous marriage, an older sister, my dad, then three more girls. He went into the army before Viet Nam, got out in time to not be called back up ... and then went into computers. He, too, avoided anything and everything that had to do with "hick" or "country" ... except for an unnatural obsession to the TV show, Hee Haw.

So my "sudden" fascination with this banjo-player in Shakey's frightened my mother beyond belief.

I was dutifully pulled away from the banjo player and ensconced in a booth, to await our pizza. I tried several times to go back to the banjo player, but Mom insisted that I stay in the booth until it was time to leave.

And, she thought, silly, silly woman, that that was the end of that.

Silly, silly woman.

A few weeks later we were at a church bazaar/carnival thing. You know, cheesy games for the kids, crappy arts & crafts projects being sold to adults? The prize for one of the games was this plastic, orange banjo and I was determined that I would win it before we left. I used every ticket I had on a game I can no longer remember. Went back to Mom and asked for more tickets. Back to the game.

Mom found me there a while later and tried to get me to go do something else. She pointed out carefully that the orange banjo would not sound even remotely like the banjo in the pizza parlour. I was having none of it. I would have that banjo. It would make pretty music.

I don't remember the game itself or how long it actually took me to win that banjo, but I do recall walking back to the car, clutching this orange banjo shrink-wrapped onto a piece of white cardboard.

Of course, its plastic strings sounded NOTHING like a real banjo. I tried moving the tuning keys, but had no idea what "in tune" was for a banjo.

Fast forward to today ... I've been watching banjos on eBay off and on for about a year now. Have bid on a few, but always get outbid in the end ... which is fine, my bids have been rather low as I'm not convinced that I want to spend a lot on a used banjo I've not held in my hands.

But I did go ahead and put a banjo on my Amazon wish list this year ... unfortunately, the supplier ran out of the banjo starter kit early on. No banjo for the Red Monkey this year. Of course ....

There's always the tax return money to use on a special treat ... maybe this "carrot" will mean that I get my taxes done in January so I can order this new toy.

Meanwhile, I'll just have to sit and think about that old orange, plastic banjo and content myself with my guitars instead.

Posted by Red Monkey at December 25, 2005 9:06 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Andy Ternay said:

Banjos are very cool.

I think your mom was opposed because it was a part of your personality she did not control.

December 27, 2005 6:59 AM


Manjusha said:

Nice story!

December 28, 2005 12:28 PM
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