What is an accordion good for? An introductory course on map folding.


Throughout my very young childhood, Mom always asked me if I would like to have dance lessons. Being a shy little girl, I always said emphatically ‘No’! Which as a child was a favourite word of mine!

She would then try asking, ‘How about acting lessons’? To which my reply would be … you guessed it… ‘No’!

‘Okay, she would say, how about skating lessons?’ ‘No’, I would say, once again.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Mom never had any opportunities as a child to enroll in lessons of any sort. She wanted her little daughter to have all the benefits and learning opportunities that eluded her as a child. She would ask and ask, hoping that one day I would say ‘yes’. Regrettably for her, and most notably for me, that day would never come, which explains why I have no rhythm or dance ability whatsoever. My dance moves would be similar to that of Elaine from the Seinfeld show. The word ‘graceful’ was never a word used to describe me, ‘klutz’ maybe, but not graceful. Despite the fact I never liked to try new things, I did however want to take piano lessons. I have no idea how that dream materialized. Could it have been watching Liberace on the television with Baba? Could it have been that Nana and Grandpa had a piano in their home? I knew no one who played the piano, yet I begged both my parents at the ripe old age of 6. I’m sure there were many discussions between Mom and Dad regarding this expenditure. I now know that they couldn’t afford a piano, so what did they come up with as the next best thing?

One word; Accordion.

The hunt was on! Dad went shopping and eventually came home with my very own ‘squeezebox’. He carefully placed the large oversized case on the floor, flipped the latches, and slowly opened the case to reveal luscious crimson velour lining and a sparkly new accordion. The translucent colours of blue, pink and white gleamed against the cold black and white keys. Oh boy, I thought, this is pretty. I sat crossed legged on the floor hesitant to touch this gleaming instrument.

‘Well, you want to try it on?’ Dad said with a smile and gleam in his eye.

‘Ah, try it on?’ I asked. I had no idea I had to wear this thing. I thought I could just play it on the floor like I played with my Barbie’s.

I looked up at Mom who was beaming with pride. Maybe she thought I was a protégé or at least would be, but I had to admit that wearing this miniature piano might be a bit too much for me.

I didn’t want to disappoint Dad, so I answered slowly, ‘ok’.

‘Then stand up and I’ll put it on you’ he said. ‘You will have to learn to put this on yourself at some point, though’.

I quickly stood while Dad grabbed the black leather straps and lifted the miniature piano effortlessly.

When I saw Dad holding the instrument, I spun around and immediately turned my back to Dad.

‘What are you doing, Paula?’ he asked in a slightly irritated way.

Now, remember I was only 6 years old. I saw the straps and thought for some strange reason, they would sit on my back just like my knapsack. I wasn’t able to process that I would not be able to play it backwards.

‘Oh Ray’, Mom laughed. ‘She doesn’t understand, she’s never, (trying to suppress the laughter), seen one of these’.

I began to cry. Why were they laughing at me?

‘Oh, Paula, it’s okay’, Mom said sweetly with hiccupping laughs; as she bent down to hug me.

‘Paula, the accordion sits on the front’, she chuckled.

‘I don’t want it’, I said as I began to sob.

I noticed Mom up look at Dad as if to say, ‘you better fix this’.

Dad took the accordion and gently placed it on the front of his body. ‘Paula, look, this is how you do it, it’s easy’.

I didn’t want to look; I couldn’t look. I was mad, and well on my way to a temper tantrum.

Next thing I knew, Dad began to play the miniature piano, albeit not well.

‘See, it’s easy’, Dad said bending down to kneel in front of me. ‘You want to try?’

Although ‘No’ was a staple in my vocabulary, I didn’t want to disappoint Dad.

‘Oooooookkkkkkk’ I said blubbering.

Dad grabbed the black leather straps, turned the accordion away from him; told me to put my arms out in front of me and slipped on the straps through my arms.

Next thing I knew, I began to wobble and Dad caught me in his arms with this miniature piano pressing against both of us. The horrible sound that escaped the bellows sounded like a dying wailing cat.

This was too much for Mom. She was now roaring with laughter, placing both her hands over her mouth to suppress the howling. She looked over at Dad and waved her left arm in the air, shook her head, and left the room.

This ‘miniature piano’ proved to be bulky, awkward and heavy. I couldn’t help but feel that maybe, I should have said ‘yes’ to dance lessons.


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