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Karen Allendoerfer

February Vacation Week, Part II

February 28, 2008 at 12:34 PM

Thursday: I worked until 3 and then went directly home to start driving. My parents live near Buffalo, normally around an 8-hour drive. Somewhere in the middle of Eastern NY State, my knee got really tired and fortunately I remembered the car had cruise control. We got in at 11:30.

Friday: I went up into the attic. I didn't expect there would be much there, I knew there was a collection of dolls from around the world that I wanted to give to my daughter, but thought I already had everything else of value.

I found those and a lot more besides. In particular, there were two dolls--so well played-with that they are definitely *not* collectors' items--that had been two of my favorites to play with as a kid. They are a little brown-haired Brownie Girl Scout doll and a blonde Cinderella, a little taller. As a kid I adapted them from their original purposes and made them into Laura and Mary from Little House on the Prairie. (Their hair color and relative heights were right.) I would put them in a makeshift wagon and travel with them across the "prairie" in my backyard. I also played fiddle for them at night and tucked them into bed, the way Pa did in the books. These dolls were my first audience on the violin. I'm reading the "Little House" books with my daughter now, and she's enthusiastic about having the dolls. (She actually took Mary in to school to share for show and tell yesterday). I'm glad Laura and Mary are still around. I thought they'd gone to the great prairie in the sky a long time ago.

When I get to the very back of the attic, under the slanting rafters, I see something else: a violin case. What could that be? Is it a 3/4 size? I was sure we got rid of all those years ago. No, indeed it's a full size. I open the case, which is rusty and not in good shape. Now I remember, this was my violin #2 in high school. Barely above the level of a VSO even then, this violin lived in the school music room closet so I didn't have to schlep my good violin (the one still I have now) to and fro on the bus every day to orchestra rehearsal. I bring the case out to where there is better light, and I'm somewhat appalled by what I see. The varnish is cracked all over, the D string is missing altogether, the hinges on the case are almost rusted through. It doesn't smell very good. I didn't think this violin was still here either; I thought I remembered my mother trying to sell it. Apparently she didn't succeed. I take the poor old VSO out of the case and flakes of varnish crumble in my hands and onto the floor.

My daughter loves Laura and Mary and some other artifacts of my childhood, but not this. This would be like the scene in the Christmas movie, The Homecoming, when Elizabeth gets an old broken-down doll at a Christmas fair, she opens the wrapping and the doll scares her, and she runs away screaming. Violin is too hard already to be saddled with a something like this. Your instrument and its accoutrements should make your heart sing, remind you of love and joy and timelessness, not decay. I put it back in the case. "No thanks," I tell my mom. I put it in the pile of stuff I'm NOT keeping. Hail and Farewell, old VSO.

My brother arrives from Philly, having gotten stuck in a snowstorm in Pennsylvania. Sometime during the past week I got an email from another v.commie who went to high school with my brother, whose name is also K. Allendoerfer. She saw my blog and said hello. I pass this on to him and he's excited and says hello back. We go to dinner and have a great time reminiscing about high school in general and the stuff in our attic.

Saturday: I've had enough of the attic and take the kids skiing at Kissing Bridge, where I learned to ski. I'm not worried about breaking any bones; I've been skiing these gentle hills since I was around 4. And now, so has my 4-year-old. He takes a lesson in the morning, and in the afternoon he's doing turns and riding the chair lift. I'm excited! Now we really can start going skiing as a family.

When I got home there wasn't that much daylight left to load the car. I've had a good time but now comes the part I've been worried about for days: I have to leave around 5:30 on Sunday morning in order to make it back in time for the orchestra concert. I set the alarm for 4:40 a.m. I tell the kids they have to get up when the alarm rings but they can sleep in the car. I sleep fitfully, tossing and turning.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 2:41 PM
I don't know which part of this blog I enjoyed more, the "Laura and Mary" stuff from Little House on the Prairie memories (oh, lucky you to have a little girl to read those to, I soooooo loved the series), or the VSO section. So wonderfully described!

Attics are so cool. Thanks for sharing your fun discoveries.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 5:20 PM
There is certainly no experience like going through your old stuff in the attic or basement when you reach middle age. Sounds like you had positive experience with it.
From Kim Vawter
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 5:37 AM
Old violins? What do you do with them?
I have a couple hanging on the wall like dead chickens in a butcher shop. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about you homecoming attic experiences.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 12:00 PM
I don't know what you do with old violins. I thought about taking this one apart, painting it, and making a wall hanging or something, but I don't have the time.

Terez, I actually started playing the violin in the first place because of the "Little House" books. I wanted to play music for the family at home the way Pa did.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 4:59 PM
Oh, Karen, that's so cool! Boy, did I love those books. Actually, one of my most positive memories of those young years. I was always able to escape into reading, and something about Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories made me feel like I was inside the experience. I've read all her subsequent books, as well, including the biographies of her. What a woman! (Sounds like her daughter was pretty exceptional too.)

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