I’m haunted this week by Colorado. It keeps coming to me in different forms and from different places, SMACK a flash of memory. A mind’s-eye snapshot of brilliant white light filling rooms from every window. Bike paths winding through chirping prairie dog villages. The brilliant sky in tones of gold and vermillion, a different view in every direction. The purple crystal heart that hangs from my rear view mirror. Freedom. Loss.
He was ten that year. The cello was a natural instrument, but they weren’t friends at first. Not long before Christmas, something clicked into place. He sat taller, straighter. The instrument became part of him, an extension of him. Notes flowed from his fingertips into the warm golden-brown wood, and the house sang. A room at the front of the house became the music room, and every night we were bathed in golden brown.
I always liked Pachelbel’s Canon in D from the first time I heard it while driving to ballet class one Pittsburgh Christmas season. How had I missed this? I wondered, and turned the radio up louder. Now Pachelbel sang in the music room, the deep bass notes and the dulcet golden middle tones combining in joyful abandon. He taught me the bass line, and I felt a little body recognition in the way I held the cello, fingers curling around on the left, a taut bent arm bowing on the right. It felt familiar. No wonder he had become a natural. One day he’d play professionally, maybe.
Six months later, the sunsets dwindled in the rear view mirror and my bright dreams turned to ash. Colorado became a bitter memory of loss and defeat. The worlds I was creating, of cello players and horse girls, fell away into dust. The cello went back to the music store, forever a part of that one sun-washed year.
I heard my Christmas gift over the phone this year. It’s five years later and he’s bringing music back into his life. He picked out the notes of all the parts of Pachelbel on a keyboard nearly as old as he is, and played a hip hop version for me while I wept silently on the other end of the phone, remembering the tall boy who sat taller when he held his cello, regally coaxing notes from the golden brown wood and sending them off into the ethers, a blessing to the universe.