Strings of the Heart
by
Norman L. Beberman ©2002

     1928 was a goodyear to be born. As we crawled into the Great Depression in asmall town in Indiana, my family's love kept me unaware of thethings we didn't have. Nursery & kindergarden were a blurof my Mother's hand-sewn clothes, borrowed crayons shared withfriends & afternoon naps on strips of carpet that came fromwho-knows-where because no one in town had enough money to covertheir wooden floors with anything at all, much less cover themwith carpet.

     When I was 10,I my Parents spoke of a war that I didn't understand. I listenedto the radio with them; I asked questions.

     Probably themost formative event of my life was also the formative event ofthe 20th century. My family & I could not ignore the storiesof the horror & brutality of the War in Europe that our oldRCA radio delivered. Then, about two weeks before Christmas, notlong after my 13th birthday, we learned of the attack on PearlHarbor.

     I was alreadycurious about Hawaii. My Father was the only one of us who hadever seen an ocean. For reasons I was too young to comprehend,it was common practice for men of my Father's generation fromlandlocked midwestern states to volunteer for military servicein the Navy or Coast Guard.

     Little did Iknow what my Parents had been hiding for my Christmas presentwould turn into the only two love affairs of my life. We had alwaysprided ourselves on being a spiritual family & never treatedChristmas as a "Celebration of Gift-Giving." Never mindthe fact that we never had very much, &, certainly nothingextra to buy gifts for each other.

     Under the Christmastree, which was cut down as part of a clandestine trip into somenot-too-distant State Park, there were two boxes. One was rectangular& the other looked like a crate.

     Three familymembers & two boxes. I couldn't begin to imagine what wasinside. Father had obviously made something for me and somethingfor Mother.

     From across theroom, I saw something quite unexpected- my name, Jane, was onthe outside of both boxes. I was so fixated on the boxes thatI didn't see Mother and Father smiling at each other and lookingat me from the kitchen doorway.

     "Merry ChristmasJane," from the kitchen was all it took for me to run tothem. Gifts were so rare in our family that I just knew this hadto be special! I almost didn't care what was in the boxes- theexcitement of receiving a present, any present, much less twoof them at the same time- was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

     The rectangularbox was heavy and the crate was heavier. The contents of bothwere solid because no rattles were heard when I shook them. Tothis day I remember the slight thud whatever was in the rectangularbox made when I shook it.

     I don't rememberif I took a deep breath or if the excitement of the moment tookover. It was a black case; not too long, very flat, with a latchin the middle.

     Inside was themost beautiful wooden electric Hawaiian guitar that I could imaginewith "Oahu" on a metal plate at the top. Me- Jane Smithfrom Pittsboro, Indiana, holding a brand-new beautiful woodenelectric Hawaiian guitar- who would ever have imagined!


     I tried to look up at my Parents,but couldn't bring myself to take my eyes away from the guitarand the black case with its' plush pink lining that I have tothis very day.

     "Open theother one," was the next thing I heard from Father as heand Mother sat on the floor on either side of me. I guess thatwas a better vantage point to treasure my every expression.

     The crate's contentscompleted the set. Had I had my wits about me, I would have realizedthat an electric Hawaiian guitar would be pointless without- yes,you guessed it- an AMPLIFIER! This wasn't just any amplifier;it was a matching "Oahu" amplifier.

     It took a longtime to realize that my new companions actually came from Clevelandand not Oahu, but none of that was of any concern to me. It said"Oahu" on it and that was all the inspiration that Iever needed.

     Father carriedthe amplifier and I took the guitar over to "the wall"with "the" outlet. He plugged one end of the guitarcord into the guitar and the other end into the amplifier. Theamplifier cord found its' way into the outlet and the anticipationin me was peaking.

     Flipping theswitch, the tubes in the amplifier began to glow and the littleamp began to hum. Father took a metal bar from the case. Withthe guitar on his lap and me facing him, he sort of brushed thestrings with his right hand and slid the metal bar on top of thestrings with his left hand.

     My jaw dropped!I absolutely could not believe what I was hearing; my Father wasactually making noise on my new guitar.

     "How didyou do that? I didn't know you could play."

     "Did I surpriseyou again?"


   "Mother and I decided that if we were goingto buy you a guitar, then we felt that it would only be fair thatyou take lessons to learn how to play."

     "It is goingto take some effort from you. Mr. Osborne, over in Indianapolis,gives music lessons. He has an opening on Saturday mornings at10."

     The excitementwas simply overwhelming.

     "When canI start," showed how anxious I was to begin. It took a fewseconds to comprehend that Indianapolis was 30 miles away andthat the only way to get there would be on the bus. Our only meansof transportation in those days was the family pick-up truck;Saturday was a busy day and I knew that Father could not do withoutthe truck.

     "Motherwill take you on the bus." "The bus," he went onto explain, "leaves here at 7:09 and takes about an hourand a half. It stops in Indianapolis about 3 blocks from Mr. Osborne'smusic school."

     "I can'twait! I love you and Mother soooo much!!!"

     The first Fridaynight in January was the first sleepless night that I remember.Sleeping with my guitar, it seemed like daybreak would never come.

     Mothers' knockfound me sitting on my bed in my best Sunday go-to-church dress,teeth brushed and a rapidly-beating heart. A quick breakfast ofoatmeal and milk and off we went.

     Not many peoplewere riding the 7:09 that day, so we got to Indianapolis exactlyat 8:42. The one hour and thirty-three minute bus ride was a timefor my mind to dream of strong trade winds and warm Hawaiian temperatures.I paid absolutely no attention to the real world of cold air,gray skies and my milky white complexion.

     "OliverOsborne, Music Teacher," was the way Mr. Osborne introducedhimself. The music studio, and I use that term loosely, was onthe second floor of a building that was accessed by climbing thenarrowest flight of stairs I had ever seen.

     The next threeyears saw the War intensify, rationing and a flood of young menleaving to serve in the Armed Forces. I was 16, in the tenth gradeand my English teacher was a beautiful woman named Ellen Wentworth.

     Miss Wentworthassigned us an essay entitled "My Favorite Christmas."I closed my eyes and relived Christmas morning three years agoas if it was a motion picture playing in slow-motion. The expressionon my face must have been blissful.

     I can't say thatthe essay wrote itself, but it did come fairly easily. As MissWentworth went around the room collecting the essays, she would"sneak-a-peek" at the first paragraph or so to get apreview. Class ended with "Miss Smith, would you please seeme after class."

     "Jane, youressay meant a lot to me. You see, my 19 year-old-brother, Paul,was drafted last year and he is fighting in Italy. Paul's passionis his "Oahu" Hawaiian electric guitar that he boughtwith money he made bagging and delivering groceries after school."

     "If I gaveyou his address, would you be willing to write to him? You twohave so much in common and it would really boost his morale."

     I knew that othergirls and women were being asked to write letters to our GI'soverseas and I jumped at the opportunity to "serve my country."

     "Does heplay well?"

     "Why don'tyou write and ask him?" was her teaser of a response.

     I left schoolthat day with a new sense of self-confidence and a sense of patrioticpurpose. My letter writing routine would make use of the threehours on the bus every Saturday. I would give Miss Wentworth myletter every Monday and she would mail it to Paul.

     The ceremonial"presentation of the letter" went on for my tenth, eleventhand twelfth grades. During summers and on Holidays, Miss Wentworthand I would meet on Sunday afternoons in Lincoln Park and continuethe ritual.

     You don't writesomeone 150 letters over a three-year period without developingsome sort of a relationship. Over time, I had changed from a 15-yearold school girl into an 18-year-old high school senior contemplatingher future. Miss Wentworth had also changed from Miss Wentworth,to my friend, Ellen.

     One Sunday, Ellenmet me at the park. Well, she didn't exactly meet me at the parkas much as she ran toward me at first sight. She was tall, thin,graceful, athletic and not the least bit out of breath.

     "Here, thisis for you".

      Dear Jane,

I am coming home. Your letters kept me goingthrough the Hell that war is. I would like to meet you very much.Please say yes.

Always,


Paul


    With Ellen's arm around my shoulder, I fumbledfor the dainty little white handkerchief my Mother told me nicegirls never leave home without and tried to control the flow oftears. Ellen was doing the same thing; trying to stop, or at leastslow, the flood of tears.

     "He's cominghome...he's really coming home," were the only words thatwere coming from Ellen's mouth.

     "I can'twait to see him," was the next sentence from Ellen.

     "I can'twait to meet him."

     The next threeSundays were full of plan making and animated discussions aboutwhat to do when Paul came.

     The fourth Sundaywas unusually crisp for March in Indiana. It was a day so crisp,the skies so blue, the clouds so white, fluffy and pillow-like,that an artist would be hard pressed to recreate such a perfectscene.

     Something elsewas different that day. When I got to the park, Ellen was waitingin the usual place and she was talking to a tall man, who, thecloser and closer I got, bore an unmistakable family resemblance.

     Turning to greetme, I felt the same little girl excitement I felt on "THAT"Christmas morning. Like Ellen, he was tall, thin, athletic andgraceful. Unlike Ellen were his masculinity and boyish face.

     "You mustbe Jane," he said in a voice that was shy and melodic atthe same time.

     "And youmust be Paul," I replied, all the time grinning like a Cheshirecat.

     Ellen lookedat the two of us and glancing at the watch that I had never beforenoticed her wearing, she mentioned something about having to gohome and grade some papers.

     In some of myassignments for Ellen, I had alluded to pleasurable experiencesas being a "walk in the park". No "walk in thepark" would ever be so pleasurable as this one.

     We walked andtalked, smiled, laughed, chuckled and, before I knew it, the sunwas starting to go down. Paul asked if he could walk me home;I knew... I just knew.... .

     Our courtshiplasted a little over a year and seemed like a day. We played our"twins", our Hawaiian guitars, every chance we got.We played for family and friends and even got asked to play on"THE" local radio station. After we retired, we playedthem at various nursing homes to entertain the people there withmusic of the 1930's and 1940's.

     We are now inour seventies; Paul is 77 and I am 74. This past spring we celebrated54 wonderful years together.

     Our guitars werenot just a part of our lives- they are our lives, and that, gentlereaders, is the problem. Paul is recovering from prostate surgeryand I am recovering from a broken hip sustained when I slippedand fell at a local theater.

     The "twins"have been relegated to- it hurts me so to say this- the attic.No one in our family truly appreciates them and their places inour lives and in our hearts.

     "Maybe theycould go to a museum" was one of my early thoughts. "Or,maybe they would be better off if I can find them in good homein loving hands."


     "Where should I start?",I asked myself as I lay in bed watching Paul sleep quietly onthat Saturday night. Bless him, he always slept quietly.

     Life is fullof serendipitous moments and little did I know one what was aboutto unfold. Reading the Sunday Indianapolis Star, somethingcaught my eye on the front page of a section of the paper thatI hardly ever read, the "Technology" section.

     The words "StringThing" over the picture of a guitar caught my eye. "StringThing- From steel-string to vintage, there is something for everyguitar-lover at the self-described First Virtual Guitar Festival& Gallery. It offers a photo gallery, CD & guitar reviews,a builder index & classified ads. www.GuitarNation.com"

     Even before therise of the National Enquirer, my teachers and family alwayspraised my "inquiring mind". In 1984, after seeing thecommercial during the Super-Bowl introducing the Macintosh computer,I went out and bought one.

     Waking my newiMac from its' sleep, my fingers typed g-u-i-t-a-r-n-a-t-i-o-nin the address bar. I had no idea what I was looking for and certainlyno idea what I would find when I got there.

     What I did seewas guitars of every description from around the world. Some werebeautiful and some were simply striking. It was obvious to methat this could only have been done by someone who loved guitarsas much as Paul and I love the "twins".

     Remembering theline from "A Streetcar Named Desire" about "dependingon the kindness of strangers," I dashed off an e-mail explainingour situation and asking for help to have the "twins"placed in a museum or in loving hands.

     A reply camethe next day. I laughed a little when I caught myself thinkingback 55 years or so ago about writing Paul in Italy and waitingfor what seemed like an eternity to hear back from him.

      Dear Mrs. Wentworth,

     Thank you verymuch for your very kind and very touching e-mail.

     Life is fullof pleasant surprises. While I don't know of a suitable museumfor the guitars that mean so much to you and your husband, youre-mail must have been meant to reach me.

     My fiancéehas two passions in life; well, three if you count me. Her othertwo passions are her Tuesday night Tango lessons, which we affectionatelycall "Tango Tuesdays" & Hawaiian music of the 30's& 40's!

     We would liketo ask if you would be willing consider this an 'application foradoption' of the "twins". We can provide a loving home& can assure that they will always be taken care of.

     Thanks very muchin advance for your consideration.

     Take care &stay well. Think good thoughts.

Mark & Suzanne

 

     You could havesneezed and it would have been enough to knock me over. I readthis at least 3-4 times before I showed it to Paul. "Wherein the world do Mark & Suzanne live?" I wondered; afterall, this was the Internet and, like our son says, "it'snot called the World Wide Web by accident."

 

      Dear Mark &Suzanne,

     Paul & Ihave read your e-mail several times and we would be tickled pinkto have you & Suzanne adopt the 'twins'. We have no idea whereyou live and the cost to send them might be prohibitive. If youare still interested, please give us a call. If the line is busy,then I am probably on the computer!J

Jane & Paul

     A day or twopassed and the phone rang at about 4 in the afternoon.

     "Hello."

     "Hello,may I please speak with Mrs. Wentworth?"

     "This isshe."

     "Mrs. Wentworth,this is Mark Richardson, your e-mail friend. How are you and Mr.Wentworth?"

     He called! Theprospective Father of our "twins" actually called!!I made a mental note of his politeness and melodic tone of voice,both of which were remarkably similar to Paul's.

     I couldn't controlmyself and gushed something like "there is no one that Pauland I would rather see with our guitars."

     "Suzanneand I are very flattered. We live in Savannah, Georgia. I lookedon the map and Indiana is a bit too far for us to drive. Suzanneand I were really hoping to be able to come up and meet you andPaul. We would really like to see the couple whose life togetheris so inspiring."

     "Pleasecall us Jane and Paul."

     "Even thoughwe don't have the extra time and money to come to Indiana, wewould be more than happy to arrange for a shipping company tocome by and pick them up and pay for the shipping, if you andPaul can pack them."

     "Are yousure about that? I don't have any idea how much that would cost."

     "I am hopingthat it will be around $200. At least that is my best guess."

     "Tell youwhat, there is no one else that Paul and I would rather see withour guitars than you. It is just one of those things that wasmeant to be."

     "Paul isgoing to the doctor this week and should be cleared to get themdown from the attic pretty soon. If you give us your address andtelephone number, we will consider the adoption completed andyou can think about arrangements for their trip to their new homein Savannah."

     Sure enough,Paul got the OK to do a little physical work and he brought the"twins" down from the attic. We opened the cases, lookedat them, looked at each other and hugged. It was time.

     I closed my eyesand I was a little girl again. I opened them and I am a 74-year-oldwoman.

     Before we sentthe "twins" to Mark and Suzanne, I took an old newspaperclipping with a poem that I had been saving and put it in thecase with my guitar.

Love is...

True love is not just Spring,
True love is a forever thing
Made of faith, trust and a smile
Willing to go that extra mile.

Love is a glance, the clasp of hands,
A heart-flame that understands.
Love is like the rainbow's hue,
Ever varied, ever true.

Love is like music, wild and sweet
Love is my treasure at your feet.
Love is...

-Helene

 

THE END