Sunday, November 29, 2009


Family get-togethers on my Mom’s side of the family always involve guitars. After everyone is stuffed from the meal, and the leftovers are sitting on the table waiting to be cleared, one by one someone goes into another room and reappears with a guitar in hand. And soon the living room is full of music and all the toes in the house are tapping.

When I was a kid, the adults used to cram around the piano and sing in harmony to old favorites like the Everly Brothers’ Dream, or any of the Beatles tunes. At Christmas, we always sang The Twelve Days of Christmas, and one family member was assigned to each day. I was always "Nine ladies dancing," and Uncle W.C. always ended each chorus with “and a par-snip in a pan-try,” causing my Grandma to roll her eyes from the kitchen. Every year.

I usually was just a witness for the guitar jam sessions that erupted in the evening, but when I was in seventh grade I learned to play Dan Fogelberg’s Run for the Roses on the flute and got to be a part of the music, at least for one song.

Now we live across the country from my family, but every now and then our house in Las Vegas has that old-home-feeling, because my husband is learning to play the guitar. He will sit on the living room couch and slowly pick out Beatles melodies while I clean up after dinner, his brow furrowed in concentration. He may only know a few chords, but hearing that familiar strumming adds something to our house that nothing else can.

This Thanksgiving was no different from any other get-together among the Wheeler clan. While the leftover turkey cooled, a group of guitars formed in the living room, giving the day its familiar acoustic soundtrack. I tapped my foot from the kitchen table where my aunts and I looked at old family photos, now and then adding a line of harmony to the music in the other room. Grandma snacked on a pumpkin cookie and watched her great-grandkids play with Lincoln Logs on the carpeted floor. Outside the day turned to evening and Christmas lights began to appear on the neighborhood lawns. Anyone passing by on the sidewalk would have heard some rockin’ Duane Eddy coming from the house at the end of Yarmouth Road.

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