I know it’s a small thing, but I finally figured out Frere Jacques yesterday! The whole thing! I’m very proud of myself. I know it’s a baby song, and this really isn’t a huge accomplishment, and when Mozart was my age blah blah blah, and even when non-genius people were my age they could play amazing music while I pick away at Frere Jacques for a week, but you know what? That’s ok. I’m not competing with those people. I’m not doing this so I can be the next Bill Monroe (I totally just Googled “famous mandolin players” because I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head), I’m doing it because it’s fun and I love it. And that attitude is what allows me to feel great about finally getting this song worked out. And I know that people are celebrating mediocrity, and even blogging about it is making too big a deal out of nothing, and there aren’t any gold stars for learning easy baby songs, just like there aren’t any prizes for cleaning the cat box or emptying the dishwasher, but I can still enjoy my sense of accomplishment. Because when it comes to music I’m a late bloomer. I took guitar for a year in high school, and I never practiced, and so I sucked. I didn’t even suck, because that would suggest that I did something other than hold my guitar and wish it made me magically look like Michelle Branch (it didn’t).  And now I’m actually learning to play a musical instrument, and it’s darn exciting. It’s like learning to read almost, possibilities are opening up, and I can see myself learning more complicated songs, and maybe (big maybe, as I am not a performer) playing in front of someone other than my parents and teacher someday. Or just playing for myself, because it really does make me happy. So it’s a little thing, almost nothing, but not quite, but I felt so proud of myself yesterday when I finally played it right.

Yesterday, while I perused my Big Box O’Memories, I came across some letters that I received last year. Actually, I found lots of letters, some going all the way back to high school. I reread a couple, and came to the conclusion that letters are almost always awesome (stop the presses!). Even terrible letters are exciting, and make me feel a rush of fondness for the writer. Some letters are better than others though, and a letter from someone you like (like like that is, to step back into middle school for a minute) is about as good as Christmas. I was pen pals with the object of my affections one summer while I was working in Utah, and getting a letter from them, especially since they usually included a little drawing, would literally make me bounce around gleefully (something my coworkers could attest to). Things never worked out between us, but writing to each other was so nice, especially because I was too shy to talk to them in person, and so we didn’t get to know each other until we started writing. Last year I had a steady pen pal/some kind of confusing romantic attachment, and it was wonderful. There was all kinds of excited anticipation waiting for a letter, and then elation when it arrived, not to mention pleasure in writing back, and getting to know someone who I felt attracted to while not being able to more too fast because we were hundreds of miles apart. At the same time though, I hate online dating- I don’t like having someone know all about me before I meet them because the process of getting to know each other is so important. And I fully acknowledge that it’s hard to transition from paper to in-person interactions (my Utah pen pal and I went right back to not talking ever when we got back to school). They really aren’t a great mechanism for getting to know someone, because it’s possible to rewrite a letter until it’s perfect, but you can’t do that in a conversation. I asked my friend last night if he would ever base another relationship on letters, and while he said it would depend, he seemed inclined towards “no”, which I think makes sense. It isn’t sustainable in the long-run, just like distance isn’t sustainable in the long-run (usually! I know some people can make it work- my chem professor lives in Western Mass while her husband lives in D.C. and they make it work, but most of the time it seems like it’s better to share a city, if not a house with your person). I’ve said before that I love long-distance, but I think that’s because I haven’t found the right person yet, so what I really like is having an escape strategy. I cherish those letters, but they wound up in a box, and when I meet the right person I think I’ll want to actually keep them around.

Have you ever had a pen pal?


4 responses »

  1. Caroline, you just almost 350 words to justify feeling pleased with yourself on your own weblog (Yes, I pasted it into Word, to prove a point.) No one is reading this and thinking “Pssh, learning an instrument is no big deal, what a card cafe,” and if they are, screw them. Own your achievements!

  2. But we’re proud of you! I’m so glad you’ve found a creative outlet. Will you play your mandolin for me when I visit over Thanksgiving?

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