Abigail’s Dream of Horsehair & Strings
by Don Nelson
The high-rise buildings failed in their attempt to block the cold wind as it blew down the busy street. The little girl, violin case in one hand and her mother’s hand held tightly in the other, were on their way to her twice weekly music lessons. Bundled up in a warm wool coat, she was quietly humming her well-practiced musical composition, “Song of the Wind”. Today, their walk would take them by a performing street musician standing between a shoeshine stand and a mail-drop box.
“Come on Abby," the girl’s mother said. "You're just dragging along. We still have several blocks to go. I’m just as tired as you are and remember, you’re the one who wants to play the violin.”
The girl said nothing. She had always dreamed of playing magical melodies on the violin, but after two years of dedicated practice, she was unhappy with her progress.
The barefoot street musician took off his white cotton gloves and dropped them, one by one. No one noticed as they floated like a feather to the hard sidewalk below. The boy bent down to remove the violin from the wearied and worn case. With the bow resting safely under his arm, he made a gentle wipe with a soft cloth; removing the last residue of rosin. The rich grain bridge of the two hundred year old violin had long ago been sanded smooth to allow for the playing of several strings at once. Tenderly cradling his close friend, he introduced the bow to the taut steel-wound strings and the love affair of horsehair and strings began. With a smooth rocking-chair motion, sweet musical notes lifted into the air and flew off in search of the ears of the little girl.
“Mom, did you hear that?” The little girl said. “That music. That’s how I want to play some day.”
“Well honey,” her mom replied, squeezing her daughter’s hand just a little tighter, “that person probably practices hours every day. If you want to sound like that, that’s what you’ll have to do.”
Not hearing what her mom had said, Abigail began humming along.
Caressing the strings with a subtle motion, the boy fluidly leaned into the music that was no longer coming from the violin but from a place deep inside him.
“Abigail, you’re dragging your feet again,” her mother said impatiently, “we have to hurry, here . . . let me carry your violin case.”
The little girl blocked her mother’s outstretched hand with her body.
“No, I’m ok, it’s really not that heavy.”
With the boy’s smooth face resting softly on the chin rest he plucked each string with the fingertips of his left hand producing short percussive notes. The pizzicato plucking of the strings imperceptibly segued into a grand song. The chocolaty smooth music, prompted only a few of the swiftly moving, self-absorbed people, to stop and gather around the boy. Many other passerby’s, with cell-phones glued to their ears, completely failed to take note of the singing wind.
The music ended and the boy removed his fedora. He formally bowed and flipped the fedora into the air. No one noticed as it floated down like a feather, settling back onto his head. He held the violin down in one hand with the bow pointed straight up over his head. A light applause followed. An old man threw a well-worn dollar into the open case, the first donation of the day. Several coins made a jingly sound as they mingled with each other, coming to a rest in the case. As they drew nearer, Abigail spotted the boy looking at them.
“Mom, can we stop for just a minute and listen?”
“No.” Her mother replied sternly, “We're already late. You remember what happened the last time you were tardy for your lesson?”
Anxiety showed on Abigail’s face. She hesitated, not wanting to leave the music behind.
With passion, the violinist began telling another musical story. It was, “The Song of the Wind”, the same simple song Abigail had been practicing for almost two months.
Mother and daughter continued to weave through the fast moving sea of people. Still drawn to the familiar music, Abigail let go of her mother’s hand and stood facing the boy, fascinated by his interpretation of the very familiar song.
Her mother abruptly grabbed Abigail by the shoulder and spun her around. “Don’t ever do that again! Lets go, we're late!”
Abigail turned back towards the music, rejecting her mothers command. The young musician's bow began to dance on the strings. The wind song took on a fun upbeat mood, warming the ears of the many listeners standing in the cold. The flying bow stopped abruptly in mid flight. The barefoot boy bowed gracefully to the girl. Abigail flushed crimson while applauding gently. The crowd began applauding as well. The boy nodded to the now still crowd and after a moment of silence, he closed his eyes and looked towards the sky. Abigail’s mom, observing what was happening, melted back into the crowd; somehow knowing this would be her daughter’s music lesson for the day.
The boy stepped forward and with one hand, held out his bow and violin. Abigail accepted the offering. As the musical object changed hands she turned to face the bewildered crowd. Momentarily studying the exquisite violin, the girl looked back at the barefoot boy.
He saw the questioning look on her face, leaned over and mouthed three words, “Play it sweetly.”
Closing her eyes, Abigail neatly lifted the instrument to her chin. A vibrating and beautiful musical sound, coming from inside her heart, rose high into the cold dense air. Eyes rose up as well. The bodies of passerby’s obeyed the mystical call and stopped to listen. All eyes were gazing upon the girl and the barefoot boy standing next to her. The music ended, the audience applauded and went about their busy lives. The little girl’s mother was smiling as she approached Abigail. She gave her eight-year-old daughter a warm hug. They arrived back home and Abigail told her dad what happened in the windy city that day. With a tear in his eye, he spoke to his little girl in the only way he knew how. He kissed her on the cheek.
Many years latter, the little girl, now a young beautiful woman, walked onto the stage of a world famous music hall and was formally introduced. Abigail bowed delicately to the audience, they applauded and quieted down. She bowed to the full orchestra. It was her way of acknowledging their presence and thanking them. Years of practice, sometimes as many as ten to twelve hours daily, had brought her to this grandiose place. The maestro turned his score to "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor. He briskly raised his baton. Abigail brought the violin up to her chin as she made eye contact with the handsome man standing at the podium. She looked down at his bare feet and warmly smiled. Her husband had shed his shoes, out of love for her.
With a humble upward gesture of his magic wand, he mouthed three words, “Play it sweetly.”
Abigail smiled and the camaraderie of artist, instrument and music, sang in harmony that night.