As people, We all have stories about our youth. This is one such tale.
Long ago, in a city far away, there was a young boy.
His prized possession was a small wooden ukulele. It was a lovely reddish brown. Tiny for tiny hands. 4 strings that were mostly out of tune but the young owner didn’t care. He could sit and strum for days. He never knew how to play but it didn’t matter.
He’d sit with it in his small lap and he’d make all sorts of ukulele sounds out of the tiny instrument.
It made him happy.
It made the neighbor boy jealous.
Who was this kid to be so happy with such a thing? It was so small and the sounds were so foreign. That little kid would just sit there with that weird smile and strum for hours.
It made him irrationally angry.
Day in, day out, the little ukulele would sing its little out of tune songs while one boy found joy and another found anger.
The ukulele was innocent of what followed.
One not so cheery or happy day, the older boy decided to take action. There was no reason that kid should have such a unique tool that was so far from the reach of every one else. Today would be the day he fixed that.
The ukulele sang its song from the fingers of the boy when someone approached.
Hey- I wanna buy that guitar.
It’s a ukulele. It’s not for sale.
I want it.
You can’t have it. It’s mine. My daddy gave it to me.
Your daddy is dead. He couldn’t give you that. Give it.
It’s mine. Daddy gave it to me.
With that, the young boy was struck about the head. He cried out and dropped the prize.
The ukulele fell to the floor and then rolled down the stairs. The young boy wailed in horror and grief.
See! You can’t even hold it or keep it safe. You don’t deserve it!
They could both see that the fine rosewood shell had cracked from the tumble. Both boys were scared it was broken forever.
You killed it! screamed the boy.
You shoulda held it better screamed the older boy.
You hit me!
I just knocked some sense into you!
they both started to cry. The ukulele was broken.
I just wanted to buy it from you.
but i don’t want to sell it.
I’ll still pay ya for it.
but you broke it. You hit me.
I’ll give you five cents.
You broke it.
ten. I’ll give you ten.
But my daddy gave it to me.
twenty five cents- final offer.
with a wail that would make a banshee cry, the young boy accepted. 2 bits was better than a broken ukulele any day. Right? And this boy was so much bigger.
The bully fished a quarter from his pocket and tossed it to the crying boy. He walked down the steps to pick up the broken prize and walked home while the young boy sobbed. It may be broken, but it was his. The ukulele and those wondrous sounds were all his. Finally. And it just cost him a couple of bits. Nothing really. It was all his.
People grow, they change, they move forward in all sorts of ways.
The ukulele sat on a shelf, in a drawer, a closet, buried in a box, moved across country, played with by children, hanged on a wall as kitsch art.
It never played the magical sounds for the young boy again.
He mourned the loss for the rest of his days.
And that is the tale of how I came to own a small broken, rosewood ukulele that my father never played. I found it in a box, discarded, forgotten but kept as a spoil from his childhood.
He never threw it away, but he never learned to play and it never sang again.