The Allure and Hazard of Thing-Naming

I turned my rental cello in yesterday.

Growing up I didn’t name inanimate objects and I’m not sure I knew people did that until my daughter named her first car. Turns out a lot of people name their possessions.

At one point over the past year and a half, I remember giving her a name. I was attracted to her curvy, voluptuous figure and she seduced me with her deep sexy voice. We began our journey slowly, my fingers unsure and my hands untrained. With practice and discipline, we began to make beautiful music together and my partner called me her Cello Bella.

I turned in my rental cello yesterday and was caught by surprise when tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t expected that. I had made peace with my decision to focus my limited time on writing. As I caressed her one last time and expressed my gratitude for being my musical companion for the past year and a half, I wracked my brain trying to remember what I named her.

“You took good care of it,” the technician said after the inspection.

“Thank you, she was my baby,” I replied.

After finishing up the paperwork, I drove away and was glad I couldn’t remember her name because leaving her would have been that much harder.

I’ll Never Be Yo-Yo Ma

As I prepared to see Yo-Yo Ma at the University of Michigan last evening, I reflected on my own cello journey.

A year and a half ago, I attended a high school music reunion, 40+ years after graduating. The weekend was a magical mix of joyful music making, renewing old friendships, and creating new memories.

I’ve always loved the deep, resonant tone of the cello but having never played a stringed instrument, I’d thought my cello ship had sailed. During the weekend I met a classmate who had taken up the cello later in life. I was intrigued. Could I do it? Could I live in my beginner brain being the recovering perfectionist that I am? She said I absolutely could and encouraged me to rent a cello and find the best teacher I could afford.

Two months later, after pestering a highly recommended teacher, there I was, rental cello in hand starting lessons. He had agreed to take me on a trial basis, which worked for me because I wasn’t sure I live up to the commitment of daily practice or even whether I’d be able to play anything resembling a recognizable tune. After two weeks, we were all in.

Playing the cello is kind of like rubbing your stomach with one hand, patting your head with the other while you’re running and singing. There is so much is going on all at once, not the least of which was reading the Bass clef, my biggest challenge. I found myself dedicated and committed, slowly and patiently working my way out of Twinkle, Twinkle hell through Suzuki Book 2.

My cello adventure culminated by playing in a studio recital, in front of his students (18 and under), their parents, and grandparents (who were my age). It was both nerve wracking and exhilarating. I heard from more than one attendee that they were inspired by my performance, which was the icing on the cake.

Hearing Yo-Yo Ma last night made me a little sad that I gave up my cello lessons when I became a newly committed writer in November. With a day job and a long commute, there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

No, I’ll never be Yo-Yo Ma or as good as any second year student, but I’m grateful my cello teacher took a chance on me. I will forever treasure my very own cello journey.