Friday 21 Oct 2016

The Music Box
AJ Robinson

When people think of a music box, they generally mean a small box that sits on a shelf or table, and you open the lid in order to hear the song. It also has a key or winding knob on the bottom that you have to turn in order to make the music. Well, as a kid, I had a music box, but it wasn't anything like that.

Hanging at the end of the hall, on the wall of the short hallway that connected the kitchen to the dining room was a small decorative box. Coming down to breakfast each morning, I saw it as I entered the kitchen.

It was my music box.

It had a pretty picture painted on the front, and a fancy sort of pattern painted around the edge. At the bottom was a little wooden knob that was sort of shaped like a bell. If you pulled on it gently you could draw a long string out of the box. Of course, you had to be gentle and just pull the string out slowly, and not too far. To do either ran the risk of breaking it. Once pulled out, you let go, and the string would start to rise back up as the music played.

As far as I was concerned, that was how a music box worked, supposedly. The first time I saw a regular music, I was confused; now I'm an engineer.

The years rolled by, my parents divorced and many things from our house disappeared among them: the music box. I was sure that it was long gone; consigned to the history and memories of our family. Then, while visiting my mother in her new cottage on Martha's Vineyard, I happened to see it hanging on the wall, at the bottom of the stairs.

I smiled; it was good to see an old friend again.

I showed my daughter how the box worked. She was fascinated. She was used to the other type of music box. Like me, she rather liked this one. After that, each summer that we visited the cottage, Alexa made a point of pulling the cord every time she came down the stairs.

Then age began to take its toll on my mother. At eighty-four, driving from Florida to the island was too much for her, and she decided to sell the cottage. Her decision, to sell the cottage, saddened all of us, but it was her decision to make. She asked every member of the family if there was anything special from the place that they wanted. For Alexa and me, there was but a single item: the music box.

It was very touching of her to let us have it.

Now, today, it hangs on the wall of our home. Every now and then, I pull the string and listen to the tune. I cant say its a very special or important part of my life, but it is a piece of the puzzle that is my life. I can close my eyes, listen to that tune, and for a moment I'm not a middle-aged man struggling to support a family; I'm a little boy free or troubles and concerns, going to eat my Cream of Wheat. For a moment, M&Ms are more special than money because I can eat them and stress is a school bully or doing my homework. I hear that music and suddenly a villainous evildoer is an ogre or Klingon, and pain is a skinned knee.

Yeah, its just a tiny piece of a life. Maybe someday the gentle strains of its tune will have the same affect on my daughter, and she can relish it as much as I do.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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