FEATURE — Five weeks ago, my seventh grader’s violin was stolen from the sidewalk in front of his middle school. He set it down on the ground while waiting for his ride home and got distracted with friends. When he returned to the spot where he’d left his belongings, the violin was gone.
He wept fiercely on the way home from school that day — partly from sheer frustration over the theft and partly because he knew he would have some financial responsibility for the replacement of his instrument.
My son loves the violin. And he hates the violin. It’s a complex relationship really, one that I hope he doesn’t ever duplicate with a human being. Even while claiming he hates it, his body rebels, swaying to the music the moment he begins to play. It happens with Bach. It happens with Vivaldi. It happens with Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” He moves with the music and if you’re watching, you move with him.
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So, when someone snatched his violin with the delicate zebra striping on the back panel — the thing he both loves and hates — it rocked him. He forgot his fickle relationship with the instrument and only longed for its return. We called pawnshops, offered a reward for its safe return and made a schoolwide email plea.
Days turned into weeks and there was nothing about the missing violin. No news. No prospects. Nada.
And then, on Wednesday, we got the call: A violin matching the make and model of my son’s had surfaced at a local violin shop, our violin shop, in the possession of a man who clearly outsized the fractional instrument.
I won’t make you suffer through the odd exchange I had with the man over the phone, but I will tell you that it led to my son and I awkwardly waiting in the lobby of the Grand America Hotel two hours later to make an instrument ID.
We waited on our feet, too nervous to sit on the high-backed upholstered chairs, the music from the grand piano in the neighboring salon trickling into our ears.
And then there it was, walking across the marbled foyer of the hotel lobby in the arms of a stranger, in a black zipper case covered almost entirely with silver glitter. The glittery mess caught the light of the large chandelier overhead with the gaudiness of a 10-year-old girl who’d over applied in her first attempt at makeup.
My shoulders sagged; this couldn’t be my son’s violin because this was clearly not his case.
But my boy saw beyond the new decor to a tiny tear in the strap at the top that, until recently, had held his identifying information. The corners of his mouth flickered up. He quickly unzipped the case, paused for a shallow breath and revealed the violin — unharmed and perfectly zebra striped.
On the euphoric car ride home we marveled about the adventures this little violin must have had in the past five weeks. Where did it go? Who was it with?
The man who ended up with it said he found it on the hotel grounds suspended from a tree in a garbage bag with several used pairs of men’s pants. So clearly something strange, if not fantastic, happened.
My son’s violin teacher likes to say that every violin has its own story and its own sound. The older the violin, the richer the story and the richer the sound, like The Red Violin from the 1998 film of the same name. That violin’s story spanned four centuries and five countries and its story was as sought after as its sound.
Thinking in those terms gives new meaning to the five weeks my son’s violin was off the grid. Although his violin is relatively young, having only been crafted in 2001, its missing time with unknown characters and likely exploits gives its young story new depth and perhaps its sound some new depth, too.
Kat Dayton is a developing columnist with St. George News.
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