I have hit the wall for this evening. I’ll see you tomorrow, same place, hopefully earlier. 😉
My family is filled with overachievers, until I came along, or so my father would have you believe. As the story goes, my older siblings even when they were children had already defined the paths they would follow: doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect. And then there was me who carried a toy microphone around and sang Katy Perry songs at the top of my lungs sometimes even hitting the right notes.
When I was seven, Aunt Juicy (her name is Lucy, which evidently I couldn’t pronounce without front teeth) gave me a ukulele. My world suddenly grew as large as my siblings. After a few years, my father gave in and bought me a guitar.
“At least give up the toy instrument and play something real,” he said, handing over an expensive guitar.
The guitar was beautiful, but I had these teeny tiny fingers that couldn’t cover the strings so the only thing the guitar brought me was endless frustration. Maybe if I could have stretched my fingers somehow, I could play the guitar. That was unlikely, however. So, I stuck to my ukulele. And, Aunt Juicy, being Aunt Juicy, gifted me with a more expensive ukulele that rivaled the beauty of the guitar. Oh, the sound was beyond anything I could have imagined, angels and harps, gold finches soaring, Mom saying there’s dessert.
It was my junior year of high school when my father sat me down, telling me we had to have the talk.
My face flushed. “Mom already had the talk with me.”
He frowned for a very long minute, realized what talk I was talking about, and his face cleared. “No, no. Not that talk. We must talk about your future.”
“You’re a junior. We should have had the talk last year, but I thought you would show some sign of having a talent, a vocation, a professional, something that would define you,” he said, shaking his head dolefully. “It is purely my fault. I dropped the ball.”
He seemed to be mentally flogging himself, so I just sat, watching, waiting, very much not knowing what he expected of me. I wasn’t going to be a doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief.
“What will you do with your future, Lita?”
“I’m a musician, daddy.”
His eyes widen. “But you never play your guitar.”
“I’m very good on the ukulele.”
“Pah, that’s a toy.”
“No, daddy, it’s not. I have talent. Me and JJ—”
“Not that boy. Is he the one filling your head—”
“We’re good, daddy.”
“I am done with this discussion. You will find something suitable for your future studies and inform me before the month is over.”
I sat there watching his retreating back, realizing that he’d never believe that the ukulele was a suitable instrument unless he heard what I could do with it.
The YouTube channel Lita and JJ Jam came about as a means to show my father that people would listen to my music, that people cared about ukulele music but never did we think the channel would ever be anything more. That our videos would go viral and be noticed. Playing ukulele and singing at Madison Square Garden? Not in my wildest dreams. Until now. I just hoped someone had dragged Daddy to his seat.