From Omaha, Nebraska to Eugene, Oregon and all the places in between, a child upbringing can be quite varied. Miami Beach niños know about as much about pond hockey as Bangor, Maine ankle bitahs know about ropa vieja, just ask Luis Mendoza and Julie “The Cat” Gaffney. Before the age of 18, however, I was under the assumption that most childhoods were fairly identical to the one I had grown up in. It wasn’t until I ventured away to college hundreds of miles away and joined a mixed bag of individuals with varying backgrounds and hometowns, that I really realized how different we all actual were. As my cultural immersion of varying perspectives began to grow I started to swing to the polar opposite on the spectrum. Thinking that in actuality there was little that connected my childhood to that of my contemporaries, aside that I might have varying interests with one or two people, a love of sports, a predisposition for obesity by way of bacon, pension for a two shirted fashion style. Time progressed and I continued having this warped sense that we are all alone in our journey to adulthood with no redeming symbol that unites us all. That all however changed recently when I was at a local watering hole and a fellow patron made a very sad attempt for topical humor. When trying to make some half baked, or shall I say whiskey marinated, comment about the recent Vice President elect being jeered at a Broadway show, he made the comment “he was the type of guy who kept playing the recorder after middle school”. What was that he just said? I was struck. I wasn’t appalled by his political commentary or barrelled over by his seemingly Mark Twain grip on humor, I couldn’t believe he made a recorder reference! Could it be possible the same floundering flute that plagued my life for all of the 3rd grade? Having had my fare share of afternoon road sodas I barked over questioning about his background with the recorder. The patron proceeded to tell me that everyone in his hometown just outside of Columbus, Ohio had to play the recorder as part of Music class in the 6th grade. For so long I thought that my hometown was the only place in the country to turn their spawn into make shift snake charmers with this plastic pipe, but could there be a connection. In college it had never dawned on me to ask if anyone else had ever suffered the embarrassing squeaks that accompanied trying to play jingle bells on this weird white stick. So began my mission, to find something to unify that unified this country in such a time of division. Unify it I did. With a quick polling of my college friends who grew up in places ranging up and down the east coast, from the inner city of New York City to farmlands on the border of Canada, the one truth became clear, they all played the recorder. I then began to ask random strangers that I would occasionally meet if they had a world wind tryst with a woodwind, and sure enough from California to Maryland I found that for some strange reason the recorder became the unifying instrument of childhood in America. There must have been one hell of a salesman at the recorder company in the 1980’s that made bank convincing school boards and music teachers across the country that this was the pinnacle instrument to teach music with. So in times of division, much like today, just find solace knowing that you at least have one thing in common with such a polar opposite individual, you both had to suffer through the indignity of the recorder.
The Eternal Instrument of Childhood