My grandmother always used to say—as do, I’m sure,
many grandmothers, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” I
was thinking about that statement after I played the
accordion at my niece’s wedding.
But let me share what happened at that wedding
My niece was being married at a ski lodge on a deck overlooking the mountains—a gorgeous setting. However, the day of the wedding, it rained. And rained. And rained.
Now I have to tell you that rain is not something that is common in Colorado, at least in large quantities. I never even owned an umbrella until I was well into adulthood—and then it was only because I travel a fair amount. (Unfortunately, I almost never remember to bring that darned umbrella, as I never remember where it is.) In much of eastern Colorado, rain is rare, and in the mountains, it generally rains in late afternoon and then clears up.
But not the day of the wedding. It rained and rained and rained and rained. Things were not looking good, but a few hours before the event, it finally cleared. I rushed to go practice my music on the deck, and I had a nice practice session.
Then I took off the accordion and set it down for a moment. Suddenly, my accordion broke—or at least that was my first impression. The whole cover encasing the reeds came off. It seems a screw had popped off. We all pitched in to find it, looking all over the deck and going down below it to search the ground.
Already nervous about playing, I started getting even more stressed. My brother-in-law, seeking to calm
me down, said, “I’m taking the guys and we’re going to find a hardware store. Don’t worry, any screw made in
America can be found in any hardware store in America.”
“The accordion was made in Italy!” I said, not at all comforted.
“Oh,” was all he said. He didn’t look so confident.
We were in the middle of nowhere, but my husband and his brother and brother-in-law were happy to have a mission that didn’t involve flowers and decorations, and they set off for the nearest town. An hour later they returned, triumphant, and bearing screws.
My husband set to work on my accordion. None of the screws fit. He and I then set off for the hardware store, with me growing increasingly worried and the wedding time growing increasingly close. Although the screw I needed didn’t seem to exist at Ace Hardware, he bought some more screws to try. We hurried back to the ski
lodge, and he transferred the existing correct screw to the bottom of the accordion, where it would be more
likely to hold on the cover and less likely to fall out, and he did some kind of what I call “guy stuff” to make the
non-fitting screw somehow work temporarily.
The skies cleared even further, and we dried off the chairs. I changed clothes…
Let me stop here to talk about those clothes. All you women accordionists out there are sure to relate. It’s not easy to dress for a wedding and play the accordion at the same wedding. The problem was, I didn’t want to wear pants. We were going to be dancing later, and I love to dance—but not in pants. I like the feel of a skirt swirling around my legs and making me feel feminine and elegant. Pants just don’t cut it.
But skirts are difficult when you have to sit, legs wide apart, with an accordion in your lap. I found a lovely top and
set out to find a mid-calf length, full black skirt. It wasn’t that hard. I bought several that seemed nearly perfect,
and brought them home to try on with the top I’d found. I tried them on for my friend Kathy, who suggested
I “try them on with the accordion.” So I did, posing in front of a huge mirror.
We both burst out laughing. Elegant I was not. Graceful I was not. Stupid-looking I was. The long skirts I’d found were not the answer. They were neither long enough nor full enough, so we set out shopping again. Finally, I found a really, really full black skirt that was cotton knit and reached almost to my ankles, but was not a formal gown. I tried it on with the accordion, and this time we didn’t laugh. It worked. I added some strappy sandals, a camisole, and a crocheted jacket, and I was set...
But back to the wedding. I put on my outfit, arranged my things in the corner of the deck, and the ceremony began. I played, much to my surprise, without making a single mistake, and I was happy and thrilled when it was all over. It turned out to be a beautiful, beautiful ceremony, with the sun shining through the aspens and the smell of rain in the air. My accordion screw did not fall out, and my full skirt turned out to work just as well for dancing as it did for playing the accordion.
Now, finally, what does all this have to do with “getting old ain’t for sissies”? The wedding made me start
to worry that maybe my hands are giving me an indication that this “ain’t for sissies” stuff is starting. I practiced so
much and so hard for this wedding that my hands ached, really ached. The heels of my hands at the base of my thumbs were killing me, seemingly from where they rest in pulling the bellows in and out. My fingers hurt. I’d awaken at night with sore hands—thinking of Grandma.
As someone who believes in the effectiveness of yoga and other stretches, I decided one morning
to get on my computer and Google “hand exercises for musicians.” I found some sites with stretching
exercises, and I tried them. I have to say, they helped a lot. So for any of you out there with the same problem, I highly recommend hand stretches before playing. Here's just one helpful site, but there are many more.