Emily W. - 1/21/2007 10:57 AM ET
Poignant but hopeful. Delicious.
| It all started with a conversation. The overcast afternoon send a chill through the air, but that didn’t stop Niema from visiting her mother at the retirement home. The ladies sat outside on the her mother’s apartment balcony to their usual cup of tea and cucumber finger sandwiches.
Their conversation flowed in the normal fashion. Niema’s mother talked about her week and how she was making a killing at bridge. She was positive that it was sign to invest in a new Buick. She went on to talk about Edna Sander’s son, the musician. Niema listened with a half ear while running through the list of errands she had to complete before going home.
“Why don’t you play violin anymore?” her mother said, breaking through her mental haze.
“What?” The question caught Niema completely off guard. “My violin?”
“Yes, dear. I remember how you used to play all the time. Practice, practice, practice. It used to drive your father up the wall. What ever happened to it?”
“I threw it away years ago. It broke and never had time to replace it,” she said and lead the conversation back to how Ralph Debussy’s daughter was getting married, again.
The truth was she still had her violin. That night, Niema went to back of her closet and dug out her old case that was buried under seasonal table clothes. With a dish rag, she wiped off the layer of dust that had formed over time from disuse. A wave of bittersweet remembrance and fear ran through her.
Cautiously, she opened the case and lightly ran her fingers along the strings. Almost reluctantly, she took the violin out of it’s blue-lined nook. Taking a deep breath, she inhaled the sweet smell of resin. It all came back to her… the music, the rhythm, the feeling.
Her first music lesson had been a week after her tenth birthday. The moment she took the shiny new instrument into her hands, it had been like finding a piece of herself. She had been proud of the calluses that formed on her fingers. While other girls had dreamed of becoming movie stars, all she had wanted was to be a concert violinist.
Niema closed her eyes, tucked the violin under her chin, and began to play Bach’s “Sonata No. 1 in G Minor: Adagio” with an imaginary bow. She played from the memory the raise and fall of the notes with the movement of her bow. But all too soon, reality came crashing back in. She wasn’t a famous violinist like Itzhak Perlman, but a dependable accountant. Refusing to relive old dreams, she placed the violin back in the closet and forced herself to forget.
But her mind had other ideas. Her thoughts throughout the week had plagued with images of broken violins. One day, walking back to work from lunch, she found herself standing in front of an instrument repair shop named Rosetti’s. In the window held a sign stating “No Problem Too Big To Fix”. Can you fix mediocre talent, she thought.
The bitter truth was not her broken violin, but in the skill of it’s practitioner. In college, she had majored in music and had high hopes for joining a symphony orchestra. But her teachers felt she lacked the true talent of playing professionally. The news that she would never be a violinist shattered her. In a moment of helplessness, she dropped the violin on the floor. The very next day she switched majors to accounting and never touched an instrument again.
The sound of a blaring horn brought her out of her daydream.
“Look out!” someone shouted.
Niema turned suddenly to watch a car jump the curb and sail straight toward her. It veered left and came within inches of crushing her, but collided with a tree instead. Shocked, all she could do was stand still paralyzed.
“Are you okay miss?” a voice said. Numbly, all she could do was nod. “You’re mighty lucky there. That car almost killed you.”
The afternoon’s events stayed with her throughout the evening. She took it as a sign. Her mother strongly believed in signs, why shouldn’t she? She was going to take a new life path. All she needed was to fix a broken dream.
The next morning’s sun glared off the store front window. With violin case in hand, she was ready to start life anew. If only her feet would move. Its only a repair shop, she chided herself. What’s the worst that could happen? Everything could fall apart. She wasn’t sure she could take the disappointment again.
With more determination than she truly felt, Niema opened the door to Rosetti’s. At the sound of the bell chime, a man stepped out from the back room. The man wore a little tag that said “Hello, my name is Tony” over a pair of red suspenders that strained against an ample belly.
“Hi there. How may I help you?”
Now or never, she thought. “I was wondering if you could fix my violin.”
Niema set the case on top of a glass counter filled with different woodwind and brass instruments. Tony pulled out a pair of bifocals and opened the case as she held her breath. He noted the cracked scroll and neck board, the broken bridge and missing D string.
“Took a mighty tumbled, didn’t it?” taking the violin out from the lining with delicate hands.
After a moment’s pause, he set it back gently in it’s case. “Well. Like the sign says, no problem too big to fix. I can have this back to you by the end of the week.”
For the first time since lunch with her mother, Niema felt herself breath. “That would be excellent.” With that declaration, Tony made quick work of ringing up her receipt.
“So, you’re a violinist?”
With a genuine smile she felt both inside and out she replied, “Yes.”
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