Lady of Spain, I Adore You
Mothers, in their attempts to enrich their sons’ lives, often resort to unconventional tactics. For example, my mother believed that the accordion was an instrument that people actually enjoyed. I never really inquired how she came to this conclusion (not that it would have mattered one iota), but one of her fondest dreams for my future included my coronation as the next Myron Floren.
What? You’ve never heard of Myron Floren, the Polka King? Mr. Floren was the accordion guru of the Fifties, having nailed down a position of prominence in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. On Sunday evenings in homes across the country, kids were sitting down to watch Bonanza or Walt Disney Presents or even Ed Sullivan Theater.
In my house, the couch was filled with Mom and Dad flanking me, attempting to keep me upright, silent and paying full attention to the mellifluous renditions of The Beer Barrel Polka. After the first week or so, I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom except during commercials, given my history of not returning for twenty to thirty minutes. I still can’t understand why I always seemed to get a tummy ache or bowel attack during that show. I can remember holding my breath to see if I could pass out or get polio… anything that would require my presence somewhere else. As I daydreamed, I’d set up mental scenarios with me laying on my deathbed on Sunday night, my parents at my side. Through her tears, my mother would ask if there was anything she could do, and I’d look up at her in my most pitiful expression and ask if I could watch Leave It To Beaver one last time…
It was usually about that time that she’d smack me on the side of the head. How could I ever learn if I didn’t listen?
At some point in time, I remember being driven to the music store, where I was taken into a back room with the world’s fattest woman, Mrs. Beasley. I’m sure she didn’t have a first name. She didn’t need one. Her neon purple dress stood out because the satiny material was a different shade every time she moved, and it reminded me of the big curtain at the Fox Theatre. Plus, it made the twelve pounds of rouge on her cheeks look like Christmas ornaments sitting on top.
Immediately, I knew why Mrs. Beasley chose to become an accordion teacher. She could actually lift the damn thing. Once, when she was sick, I had a substitute teacher, a thin little man. When it came time for my lesson, he merely picked the accordion up with a hydraulic wench and sat it on my lap. Once I decided to try to lift it myself. The next day I woke up in a ward in Presbyterian Hospital, recovering from hernia surgery. (That reminds me, why do they call them ‘hernias’? Women don’t get them, shouldn’t they be called ‘hisnias’?)
After four years and roughly a quarter of a million dollars invested in my stardom, I think my mother realized that Myron Floren was sleeping quite soundly knowing that I was a contender for his throne. One day, my accordion was miraculously transformed into a new pair of size six Ridell baseball cleats and a Wilson A-2000 ball glove, and the rest is history. I’m sure Mom would have liked to keep that accordion, just in case I changed my mind at some later date. Dad probably pointed out that the house simply couldn’t support that much weight in the attic.