Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

Strumming my Uke for Eternal Redemption

by | Apr 18, 2024 | Relationships | 0 comments

My life harboring musical secrets

Growing up, I would see my sister sing around the house and my mom fawning over how beautiful her voice was.

I would try to steal some of my mom’s attention and approval. I would sing, then ask my mom what she thought about my performance, and my mom would say, “Your sister has a beautiful voice, and you… you are good at math.”

And it was true!

I was good at math.

But my mom never really answered my question.

I’ve always yearned to do something with music, even if it was in the privacy of my house, because I believed music was part of my DNA.

My dad enamored my mom with his guitar’s serenades, my grandma played the piano, and all of my dad’s siblings — about 1,000 of them — sang in the local Catholic Church choir.

By the time I was of age to learn the guitar, my dad had divorced my mom and converted to Evangelical Christianity.

All the songs he was allowed to play were from the God-approved booklet. He couldn’t teach me the boleros he played for my mom, like “Noche de Cartagena,” “Madrigal,” or “Piel Canela.”

Instead, he tried to teach me the Christian songs he was allowed to play. Apparently, these ones were out of this world. But I was not interested in them. In a modern context, a folk song about bringing someone from the dead sounds a lot like giving someone CPR. “Okay, Lazarus, here we go. Clear!!! Choo bee do bee do”

In my early thirties, my wife got me a ukulele, partly because of the movie “Her” and partly because I once told her how much I’d love to play a musical instrument.

I didn’t tell her, but I had harbored another secret desire.

I wanted to learn to play the uke, so whenever we went on family vacations, our families would gather around a fire, and we would gaily sing songs. Before going back to our rooms, we would all hug, cry and do it all over again the following evening.

I now know how to play the uke, but nobody in either of our families has ever said to me, “Carlos, why don’t you play a tune or two?” They don’t care. Nobody does.

It doesn’t matter.

I still play the uke.

Sometimes, you just do things because they soothe your soul, and that’s what strumming my strings does for me.

Eventually, something happened.

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, I would sing and play to her belly almost every night.

When my daughter was able to wobble and hold something in her hand at the same time, she started grabbing the uke and bringing it to me.

I would ask her, confused, if she wanted me to play. She would find a way to tell me that she did. She is the only person that has ever asked me to play anything.

I don’t think anyone else would’ve made me feel the way she made me feel when she signaled she wanted to hear me play.

Words can’t describe how my heart could have easily burst out of an abundance of joy that day.

I’m not qualified to talk about music. I use one strumming pattern on my uke — choosing instead to create complexity by straining my voice and adding layers to my songs through the two notes I can hit: loud and louder.

I am now good at math and can also play four notes on my uke. But best of all, I get to share this love with my daughters.

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