Friday, March 7, 2014

Playing the Accordion

Something that most people don't know about me and would probably be surprised!

My grandpa Minarik was born in Czechoslovakia and then came to Michigan when he was a small boy.  For entertainment his 13 brothers and sisters along with his parents would dance to polkas and waltzes.  He learned to play the accordion and became very accomplished at it.  When we were kids he would often get his red and ivory peril accordion out to play a lively polka such as the "Beer Barrel Polka" and we would dance around the kitchen.  It was amazing to watch him play it, tapping his foot, running his fingers over the ivory keys on the one side and pushing the buttons on the other and at the same time stretching the bellows out as far as they would go, then squeezing them back together.  He would be singing along with the song and it seemed so easy for him.
My mother carried on the Czech. tradition as well.  My grandpa bought her a beautiful accordion that she would occasionally play.
So, I think after my older sister learned to play the piano successfully my grandpa assumed that I may have been born with a musical bone like my sister.
I can still remember the day my grandpa took me to the back room in their house to show me a surprise that he had for me.  Naturally, I was excited so when he started to pull the suitcase out from under the bed I knew what it was going to be.  He opened the suitcase to reveal a shiny black and white accordion.  It looked so beautiful in the box.  There was red velvet lining in the box that made that black and white accordion stand out even more.  I ran my fingers over the peril ivory keys and the rows of bellows.
My grandpa explained to me that it was a very expensive instrument but that he thought that I would enjoy learning how to play the accordion like he did. 
My mom took me for lessons along with my sister.  She learning piano and me the accordion.  It was difficult and I struggled.  My mom had to nag me to practice. The room that we practiced in was the dining room which was the center of our hundred year old farm house.    When my sister practiced the piano it was pleasant and enjoyable to listen.  When I practiced the accordion, doors closed and everyone disappeared.  It was hard for me to coordinate the bellows with the keys and the buttons.  I wanted to give up and my mom would not let me.  Worse yet the older I got the more I had to keep it a secret from my friends at school.  The definition of cool did not include playing an accordion.  I was sure that if anyone found out I would be made fun of and it would be the end of any kind of social life at all!
My grandpa would come over and insist I get my accordion out to play a lively polka or waltz for him.  He never said a bad word about my ability in fact he would be grinning ear to ear as if I played the most Divine song.  This didn't help!
Finally, after several years my mom gave up and let me quit.
Now, this should have made me happy but I knew that I had probably disappointed my grandpa.  He of course never said so but I was the only grandchild that was provided with this opportunity to carry on his old world family tradition that.
I still have that accordion that my grandpa bought for me so many years ago.  My grandpa passed away almost 15 years ago. That tradition has since faded.   I've had fleeting thoughts of getting that accordion out and give it another whirl. 
Hmmm... I guess it's never too late. 


  1. I think the accordion is coming get it out and start playing! I think it looks like a really difficult instrument to play. I love how you said that when your sister practiced piano all the doors were open...but when you practiced the accordion...doors were closed. It is all just getting over that hump of becoming comfortable with the instrument...have you ever had to listen to someone learning to play the violin or clarinet! So yes, dust off the accordion and start playing. Jackie

  2. WOW! I never saw that coming. What an awesome memory. I sense a performance coming. Maybe our next PD? That give you a week. ;) Really though, I loved all the description. I feel like every time I read your writing I am right beside you living it. That is not always an easy task but you seem to do this effortlessly. Have a great weekend of slices. Can't wait to read them.

  3. It feels like I've just had a conversation with you anytime I read your writing. I loved this story and you are right, I never expected it! And just so you know, I've heard that Betsy plays the trumpet...maybe a duet on Friday? :)

  4. I can tell the memories are precious. I hope you find a teacher that can help you reconnect. Here is to new memories and open doors.