Old Music by Colin McLaughlin
by Mark Chmiel
For years, I was obsessed with my mandolin. It was my travel companion–out of town, long walk, over night–I always had my trusty mandolin slung over my shoulder. It got worn down and weary looking, but it sounded bright every time I ran my hands over the wood and metal. A near perfect union.
I miss it. Ever since I played it at my mothers funeral, it won’t sing for me. It used to be I’d walk in the room and it’d wink and coax until I picked it up, like a persistent child raising its hands, wanting to be held. Now it’s an old piece of wood with a shadow over it. I try and play–but I always end up tossing it aside, upset. My mom wanted her sons to play “I’ll Fly Away” for her friends and family that day, as we did so many times by her bedside. It was a frequent request of hers those last months. I did not hesitate to oblige. In hindsight, I don’t know how I did it.
My banjo has no shadow over it, even though I played it for her just as much when she was sick, if not more, than the mandolin. But in that dark parting, it was the mandolin that accepted the burden of bringing that day to mind for years to come. Now my banjo is my best friend–I aspire to be the human equivalent of it: humble, goofy, nostalgic, playful, vaguely southern but in a welcoming way, happy and sad at the same time. We miss the elusive lady that made us a trio. She soaked up grief like a tired kitchen sponge. My old mandolin.
–Colin is taking my on-line class, Be in Love with yr Life. he is a student at Saint Louis University.