Over the last few years, our family has been moving away from the orgy of spending and over-the-top revelry that has come to define the pre-pre-teen birthday party. Poverty was a big help in our decision, but conversations with Thing 1 about his fondest birthday memories have confirmed our opinion that smaller celebrations may not only be cheaper, but more memorable.
So each year, we take Thing1 on a day trip to his favorite science museums, and now Thing2 is hitting an age when having a special day with the family trumps the excitement of staging a three ring circus in our yard. Lately, his birthday celebration has taken the form of a weekend hike or activity with aunts and uncles and cousins, but this year, schedules and circumstances left the four of us to our devices.
Our search for something out-of-the-ordinary took us to Hubbard Hall, a local community arts center and our go-to source for all things creative and inspirational. Donald Knaack, aka the Junkman was leading a workshop, on the surface anyway, on the fine art of turning trash into musical treasure. By the end of the hour we realized he was teaching something much more.
There were only a few kids and parents there. The kids were shy, and the parents were self-concious. Most of us seemed to be under the impression, as I was, that we would watch the kids create and play. But the Junkman had other plans.
We sat in a circle, each taking a piece of junk, and the Junkman began to talk about music, and rhythm, and life, and connecting to it through music. The kids grew more enthusiastic as he talked, and the adults began to smile, as he reminded each of us of our connection to music.
Over the course of the next hour we whacked, and stomped, and clapped, absorbing his instructions until the playing became more than just rhythmic. It became organic. The beats and tones were spell-binding and breaking at once. The Junkman encouraged us, banishing self-conciousness as we all began to embrace not just the rhythm but the idea that making music is as much about finding our groove and becoming part of it as it is about finding the perfect note.