Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Musician's Wife

Funny how doing laundry and the discoveries of wet, wrinkled items unearthed from pant pockets and lint traps can be very telling of a home. The other day, while doing a load of darks, a large, tangled mass of clothes fell out of the dryer as I opened the door.

I wasn't surprised to discover that a broken guitar string had weaved its way in and around my now injured wardrobe; its stiff wire tying the whole load together in a bunch. This string, once a weighty contributor to the ever-present noise brewing from our basement, is now a lifeless nuisance in my laundry.

Nowadays, I don't even try to calculate how my kids' guitar strings end up in the wash. This due to the promise I made over a decade ago, long before they were even born. The guitar string I work to free from its handy work brings me back to the moment I signed up for this sort of mishap fourteen years ago.

The first time my husband asked me out, I was in a bar playing pool with my friends. When he popped the question (do you want to go out sometime?), I turned my head towards him and found myself locked in his sweet stare; those big, green eyes deflating any strength I had in saying no.

We fell in love pretty fast. A few movies and a couple dinners later, we both knew this was the real deal. Things grew serious quickly and we both seemed comfortable with this force pulling us toward our future. So when he said, "Tracey, there's something you need to know about me," my girlish heart dropped in fear. Here it comes. The end of this great ride.

"I have another love," he explained, "and it's my music."

Jeremy went into detail about how he will always work gigs on top of his full-time job. That the home we'd live in together would always be a noisy one. That when he needed time to write and play, I would have to respect it. So many times, he said, his musician buddies were asked to quit by their girlfriends or wives; wanting to pull them away from music and he didn't want to live with the same pressures. Was I, he asked, able to live in a musician's world?

Even though I had a minimal musical background, I was pretty relieved to hear that this was his deep, dark truth . Was I willing to share him? With another woman - never! With music - sure, why not? I could definitely handle that. I was proud of his dedication and talent.

Over the next few years, I learned about the idiosyncrasies that came with this world, including losing parts of our homes to his studios and pieces of our time lost in music stores, jam sessions and rehearsals. I even embraced feeding the masses for band retreats and live shows. Our house, as promised, is noisy. Sometimes I move with the beat. Other times, I just want to beat him.

What I didn't count on was that this wonderful world of music would multiply around me. Three-fold in fact. Today, I not only share my life with one musician but four - by way of our daughter and two sons who have passionately decided to embark on their own journey of sound.

I'm definitely still learning how to be a music Mom. This is new territory for me. What do you do when a band breaks up because someone didn't play with the guitarist at recess? And what do you serve the band for dinner when there are potential peanut and milk allergies? How do you teach compromise to a nine-year-old singer who wants to branch out into playing guitar and bass and drums? Did I mention how loud our house is these days?
Surely, the positives must outweigh the negatives. Turns out, they do.

There are very few activities that require more use of the brain than playing music. In fact, because they use both hemispheres, musicians show a larger capacity for creative or 'divergent' thinking even when not strumming their instruments.

Research at the Universities of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and California-Irvine found children who are exposed to musical training enhance the activity of crucial neural systems and spacial reasoning. Music improves a child's math, language and memory skills.

A massive two-year study in Switzerland scientifically demonstrated that playing music improved a child's verbal and reading skills; thanks to increased levels of concentration, self expression and memory.

Researchers at Brown University found that under-achieving students, when enrolled in a music program, were able to catch up to their peers academically in seven months. After a full year, they surpassed them.

My husband often interacts with teenagers through his music. I have seen the miraculous transformation with these kids when they are taken in by his guitar playing. Teenagers who appear closed off and reserved, magically come out of their shells; wanting to learn and discuss a subject that seems to be the gateway into their thoughts. As a Mom, I don't take for granted that music seems to be the ticket that gains us admittance into our children's lives.

When I first surrendered to my husband's musical community after his admission, I concede I was naive to what I was saying yes to; that it meant much more than tolerating bass-induced vibrating china cabinets. I realize now that he was handing me a very exclusive invitation to be a part of my children's personal and private worlds.

It's true that I may not have realized what I was signing up for when I made that promise years ago. But those guitar strings have had a miraculous way of weaving themselves not only through my laundry but also through our family - binding us together in one tight knot.

guitar string photo by arya.hamedi


  1. Love it. I wish I could convince my boys to pick up a real guitar...Guitar Hero masters though they may be! I always used to go for the drummers though, hee hee.


  2. Well done Tracey. At this point my girls are more about singing than anything else although, the now 9 year old, once claimed that when she grows up she wanted to be Jimmy Page. I think my work as a parent is done!

  3. Amazing post. As I pictured you pulling guitar strings out of your laundry, it made me think of all the golf tees, guitar picks, and lip glosses that end up in my dryer. My family has been warned though, anything I find in the laundry is mine, including money. I thought that would teach them to empty their pockets, but no, not a chance...the good news is, the ipod that went through the laundry machines still worked after it dried out!

    Enjoy the noise, for sadly, before you know it, they'll have all grown up and moved out, leaving your house quieter than you are used to.

    Here's to you, for giving your kids (and Jer) the time and space needed to develop their love for music! YOU are an amazing woman!

  4. Its a crazy houe sometimes ... but I guess it is partially my fault. Traceys the real musician in the house. A campfire and a little tequila and LOOK OUT GRANDMA!!

  5. "Love" and "Passion" that's what comes to mind when I read your story.....Oh yeah and a
    Can't wait til we visit again...Rock on Greens!! wooohoooo :-)

  6. "smile" is the word missing :-) L8TR :-)

  7. It is so enjoyable to read your blog Tracey, I can 'see' what you write about in my mind, you definitely do the 'show not tell' of the writting techniques.
    Our household is also a very loud one with our 3 children and their love of music. Neither Curtis or I are very musically inclined but do know of the benefit of it and we are very glad that our kids took a liking to it, between piano - french horns - euphoniums or singing and sometimes all of the above it can get pretty loud but yes it is nice that they are enjoying the music : )
    One more thing though.... where is the recipe!

  8. Do doors slamming, synchronistic yelling & high pitched whining count as musical talent? Cause if so, I got me a hip duo that could sell out a joint in minutes. :D
    We'll dub them "the Drama Queens", get them a gig on Disney Channel.
    Naw, we all know what happens to Disney girls...! lol
    Tracey, you have found the perfect recipe!!! "How to build a happy, loving family."
    Everyone in the Green household is a credit to you. xoxo

  9. Great article Trace!!! Love the symbolism of the guitar string wrapped around your laundry of how music is wrapped around your lives... Great stuff!!! Enjoyed reading the whole thing


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