• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 09

In Accordance With Mamma

In this land they don’t take it seriously. They think it’s just an instrument for street musicians to knock out sentimental old favourites in exchange for the rattle of a nickel in their collecting tin. But back in the old country, as Mamma tells it, the accordion was revered and its virtuosos treated like legends. The national championships would attract tens of thousands of fans and primetime radio shows would be devoted to the most popular performers.

Ever since I can remember, I dreamed of emulating the players my Mamma told me about and as soon as my arms were long enough and strong enough to hold the accordion, I would practice every day until my fingers were raw. My younger brother, Julio, was as passionate about the guitar and so together, every evening after dinner, we would play the old songs that Mamma loved while she danced, the sun set and the chickens came home to roost.

Meanwhile my Papa and my four older brothers went off to the city each day to carry out the ‘family business’. The time soon came when they decided Julio and I were old enough to join them. When we told them that we wanted to be musicians they first of all laughed, then accused us of cowardice and bringing dishonour on the family. Papa threatened to smash our instruments and our heads together. He said we had no choice in the matter, that it had been preordained since the moment we emerged, mewling, into the world.


In Accordance With Mamma

But then Mamma stepped in and told him what would happen if they tried to force us to be like them. She said it was bad enough that there were already four boys that she never knew if they would come safe at night or not and that was enough. And besides what would her life be if she could no longer look forward to her evening dance to the sounds of the old country. So we got stay with our beloved instruments and our beloved Mamma. To earn our keep, we would entertain at weddings and communions. And we played the old songs, the sad ones, at all the funerals. Including, in due course, those of our Papa and our four brothers.